Members of the College of Design community have many opportunities to “do the work” of diversity, equity and inclusion through the #InclusiveByDesign series this semester.

Hosted by the college’s Multicultural Student Success Office and Diversity Committee, #InclusiveByDesign will feature two main types of programming — virtual discussions and in-person, come-and-go events. The format for each of these activities has been adapted to align with the university’s Cyclones Care initiative and the college’s own efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, said Jordan Brooks, director of equity, inclusion and multicultural student success.

For 2020-21, the series will center in part on diversification and decolonization of the curriculum and workplace, themes identified through discussions in response to incidents of racial injustice and discrimination in the college and university last fall. Faculty, staff and students together identified 11 issues for the college to address, among them, negative competitive culture, bias and discrimination, authentic communication and retention of people of color (POC) students, staff and faculty.

The global pandemic and increasing incidents of police brutality, violence and murder of Black people have brought the realities of systemic racism into sharper focus. These issues also will be explored in the context of art and design because “creators have a unique positionality to our world’s issues,” Brooks said.

“If you look at individual majors in the College of Design, they can all be used to oppress or discriminate against people intentionally or unintentionally. They can also be used to uplift and liberate people. Using our knowledge and skillsets as artists and designers, we can literally create a better society,” he said.

The overall goal of #InclusiveByDesign is for the college to live its commitments to connection, diversity, and inclusion for liberation. The program is loosely defined and intentionally flexible “to create space to hear those who are underrepresented and address emerging needs,” Brooks said. “This flexibility provides more ways of sharing by students, staff and faculty in a community environment.”

Fall programming

The online open discussions this fall will be held via Zoom from 6–8 p.m. Sept. 8, Oct. 6 and Nov. 5. Topics will be decided by participants at the beginning of the event. Register online to participate.

Brooks acknowledges that virtual discussions can be both a barrier and a bridge between groups.

“Conversations don’t flow as naturally through a screen, especially when faculty, staff and students already have so much screen time, so we have to be mindful of mixing it up,” he said.

“In the open discussions we will move from large to small groups and use the different interactive features of the Zoom platform. Our drop-in events are another way for us to engage as a community in person, just on a smaller scale.”

Drop-ins, formerly known as pop-ups, will continue to take place in the Lightfoot Forum (atrium). These are scheduled all day Sept. 24, Oct. 15, Nov. 3 (Election Day) and Nov. 19. To reduce density and observe physical distancing, Brooks worked with Daniel Morely (BArch 2018 Architecture / Environmental Studies), who graduated with a master of science in architecture in May, and multicultural student success graduate assistant Marwa Elkashif, graduate student in graphic design, to create a mobile DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) Experiential Kit. This portable kit can be used for self-guided experiences on various topics related to DEI and social justice.

“Last year, we offered passive programs in the Lightfoot Forum that focused on hate speech, microaggressions in the classroom and ways to mobilize for change,” Brooks said. “This year’s drop-ins will continue with a similar focus on specific topics selected by our BUILD learning community mentors for the college community to address.”

Making it personal

Brooks’ inspiration for #InclusiveByDesign came from his professional experience at Georgia Southern University and Grinnell College. His desire to help Iowa State commit to equity and inclusion derives from his own experiences as a Black student during his undergraduate studies at a predominantly white institution (PWI).

“As a person of color at a PWI, you are facing the rigor of your academic education and confronting the individual bigotry and oppressive systems of the institution. Since I graduated from Allegheny College, I have felt a personal mission to support Black, Indigenous and people of color in higher education to overcome them both,” Brooks said.

For faculty, there is an opportunity to meet the call to diversify our curriculum, address bias in the classroom and commit to the necessary self-work to model equity and inclusion, Brooks said. For staff members and administrators, there is the opportunity to meet the call to remove and replace policies and practices that create inequities and unnecessary barriers to success, and celebrate our full community.

“No matter how many resources we create or share, no matter how many programs we put on, they’re not going to be helpful until you decide that social justice is a personal thing for you,” he said. “We have the potential to engage future designers and artists and help them liberate and sustain the world rather than oppress people. My hope is that people find a way to make social justice work personal for them.”


Jordan Brooks, Design Multicultural Student Services, jwbrooks@iastate.edu
Meg Grice, Design Communications, mgrice@iastate.edu
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, hsauer@iastate.edu