The University Counseling Service has a strong commitment to meeting the needs of diverse people. In all individual, group, and program services we strive to create an environment where all people feel welcome. As a staff, we define cultural diversity in this context as personal or social identities based in cultural, individual, group, or role differences including, but not limited to, those based on race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, mental health status, relational and family status, religion, spirituality, language, nationality, citizenship status, social class, economic status, veteran status, disability and ability, gender identity and expression, body type and size, as well as diverse ideas, values, and lifestyles.
- Multicultural awareness is our goal in all areas of the University Counseling Service.
- Staff members represent a wide range of cultural diversity, including differences in racial and ethnic diversity, sexual identity, religious affiliation, age, and gender.
- Culturally diverse students are well represented as consumers of clinical services, outreach programs, and training opportunities.
- Diversity Issues Steering Committee (DISC) serves as one focus for the UCS journey, to increase our awareness and services in the area of cultural difference.
- University of Iowa and surrounding community
- UCS Informational Brochures available in Five Languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, Japanese, and Spanish; provide information about the services offered by the UCS as well as information about what to expect from the counseling experience.
Diversity at the University of Iowa and in Iowa City
The University Counseling Service (UCS) of The University of Iowa has made a strong commitment to meeting the needs of culturally diverse people. As a staff, we are addressing issues of diversity in our clinical work, training, programming and consultation, and staff development. Cultural diversity in this context includes people of diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, gender, socioeconomic class, sexual/affectional orientation, mental and physical abilities, religious and spiritual beliefs. In this definition we acknowledge those groups of people and cultures across a wide range of human differences who have traditionally and historically been underrepresented, underserved, and discriminated against in our society. (Definition of diversity from the UCS Diversity Issues Steering Committee.)
The UCS is committed to hiring and retaining clinical staff who represent a wide range of cultural diversity, and who are dedicated to the intentional inclusion of multicultural competence in all areas of their work. The staff reflects differences in racial and ethnic background, national origin, sexual identity, religion and spirituality, age, and gender. The entire staff shares our goal of providing sensitive, high quality services to diverse people. In addition, some staff members have developed interest and expertise in working with African-Americans; Latinos/Latinas; Asian and Asian-American individuals; international students; students with disabilities; Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual persons; as well as members of other underrepresented groups. The UCS offers psychotherapy in Spanish, Mandarin, Igbo, and English.
Although the University is situated in a primarily white state, the University has made efforts to increase diversity (Regents' expectation). Students of color represent about 9-10% of UI students. For several years, the UCS has seen a higher proportion of diverse students than has been present in the student population at large. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students receive a range of services at the UCS. Students with mental, learning, and physical disabilities are represented, as well as many other persons with diverse identities and affiliations.
The UCS has been actively working to foster the development of a diverse organization for many years, most recently through the designation of a specific committee. In 1994, the Director appointed the Diversity Issues Steering Committee (DISC) to help the UCS further deepen its diversity commitment. DISC established as its mission facilitative, consultative, and advisory responsibilities to support the staff and agency in implementing the diversity mission. The overarching goals of the committee are:
- To encourage individual and group ownership of the UCS commitment to the valuing of diversity.
- To encourage the continued integration of the UCS commitment to diversity in all UCS functional areas.
- To proactively integrate the UCS commitment to diversity with the academic mission of The University of Iowa.
Most recently DISC has been working to transform our physical environment into a space where cultural diversity is reflected through art. We are working to provide celebration and education as we decorate our workspace.
Staff development is another way that we ensure that staff members build needed knowledge and personal insight for working with diverse populations. In the past few years, staff development time has focused on issues of diversity. Topics have included the American Disabilities Act, learning disabilities, transgender identity issues, deaf culture, gay/lesbian/bisexual identity, Jewish Identity, Islamic beliefs, Japanese culture, Latin spiritual beliefs, Nigerian cultures, and men and depression. We will continue staff development presentations and discussion of relevant topics concerning diversity and our outreach to underserved groups.
The UCS is located in a campus community with continually expanding opportunities for diverse people. Opportunity at Iowa is a program on campus that is committed to increasing racial/ethnic diversity of students, staff, and faculty. The African-American World Studies Program provides opportunities for coursework as well as an undergraduate major. The Council on the Status of Latinos is a group on campus that serves as a place for Latino faculty, staff, and students to discuss issues of concern such as developing a Chicano Studies program. In 1993, the American Indian and Native Studies program was established. For over 20 years, the Support Service Programs office has offered services primarily for people representing racial/ethnic diversity in the areas of academic, financial, personal, and cultural support. The Afro-American and Chicano/Native American Cultural Centers offer spaces where students and community members can meet to celebrate and share their cultures with the University community. There are also ongoing culturally-related activities for the Latino, African-American, and American Indian communities such as the American Indian Student Association, Black Action Theatre, Black Student Union, and Voices of Soul. African-American and Latino fraternities and sororities, along with approximately 40 other student organizations representing culturally diverse students, are also active on campus. The Center for International and Comparative Studies offers coursework in African Studies, Global Studies, Latin American Studies, Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies and South Asian Studies. The Office of International Students and Scholars offers foreign students a large number of services including immigration advising, counseling, and social gatherings. In addition, UI has a strong program for scholars and visiting professors from other countries, which includes the International Writer's Workshop.
The women's community at the University and within Iowa City is very strong and diverse. There are faculty and staff groups such as the Council on the Status of Women which studies matters pertaining to women and advises campus officials on issues ranging from child/dependent care to the affirmative action plans of individual colleges. Other women's groups and programs include Associated University Women, which is primarily a networking group, the Women Studies Department, along with various female student professional groups. Two agencies committed to addressing issues of violence against women are the Rape Victim Advocacy Program and the Domestic Violence Intervention Program. The Women's Resource and Action Center (WRAC) has been established for over 20 years and serves all women through support groups, educational programs, a library, and advocacy work. WRAC is a grass roots and community-based women's center.
Iowa City has many types of religious services available to the public. A wide variety of Catholic and Protestant churches can be found in the community, including an African Methodist Episcopal Church. The Iowa City Jewish community is centered around the Agudas Achim Synagogue which has over 150 members. The Islamic Society of Iowa City serves members of the Moslem community.
Support for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community can be found in the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Union, and the Bisexual Support Group. In 1990 the UI Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Staff and Faculty Association was formed and has become quite active in the areas of curriculum, advocacy, and education. As a result of the Association's work with other UI groups, domestic partners of UI staff and faculty members can apply to receive insurance benefits. WRAC also offers support groups and social activities for the lesbian community. UI coursework is available in Sexuality Studies. In November 1994, the sixth North American Conference on Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Studies was held at the UI. In addition, sexual identity as well as gender identity are included in both the Iowa City and University of Iowa human rights statements.
Additional services are also available to meet the needs of other diverse groups. The Office of Student Disability Services assists students by offering academic, vocational, and personal support services in addition to serving an advocacy role within the University. Staff Disability Accommodation Services provides similar support to University staff. There are also AIDS support groups and services within the community to meet the needs of persons with AIDS, their significant others and concerned family and friends.
Clearly, by the number of offices and services available within the University community, there is much diversity within Iowa City. While Iowa City is a relatively small community, it offers a history of openness to diversity. The Iowa City Human Rights Commission has been in existence since 1963 and deals with discrimination complaints in the areas of housing, employment, credit, and public accommodations. The University also has its own Human Rights Committee which hears discrimination complaints. UCS staff are encouraged to become involved personally and professionally within these diverse communities which offer opportunities for social support and networking. For more information on diversity issues, contact the staff at the University Counseling Service.
For more information about Iowa City and the surrounding area, you may visit the Johnson County Community Network Web Site at http://www.communitylink.com/iowacity03/index.htm, http://www.iowacity.com/communi.htm , or http://www.icccvb.org.