The Building Community Initiative emerged from a series of meaningful dialogue sessions held in the College of Education in 2015 to give voice and context to the growing tensions around a variety of social issues around the world that also immediately impact the climate of the College of Education at the University of Iowa. During these town hall style meetings, then Dean Nicholas Colangelo charged the participants with thinking critically about leveraging differences around race, gender, class, sexual orientation, and other social distinctions to build a strong community within the college.

Under the leadership of Dean Daniel Clay, the College of Education continues its commitment to building a strong community across difference. The Building Community Initiative continues this work through a variety of activities and events including the Building Community Reads project, the Dean’s Speaker Series and act as a central place for communication of diversity-related events. The Building Community Initiative is committed to exploring the theme of Power and Privilege through the 2016-2018 academic years through various programs. If you are interested in joining us in this work please contact us:

Dr. Sherry K. Watt, Co-Chair, & William Coghill-Behrends, Co-Chair
Dr. Dan Clay, Dean

Mission Goals and Purpose

The Building Community Initiative is collaborative effort between active committees and groups that focus explicitly on creating a supportive, inclusive, and safe environment for everyone within the College of Education.

As members of the College of Education, we are dedicated to building a strong, inclusive community. We will work proactively and intentionally to cultivate an environment where dialogues across differences are embraced and where a wide diversity of human expression is valued.

The College of Education embraces the strengths and the challenges of interacting across difference. *“Difference is having dissimilar opinions, experiences, ideologies, epistemologies and/or constructions of reality about self, society, and/or identity”. We are a community.

We will intentionally seek out opportunities to create a culture whereby the inclusion of differences in opinion, experiences, ideology, and identity are thoughtfully invited and used to inform our interactions as well as our teaching, research, and service.

We will stand in solidarity against any ideals and behaviors that aim to exclude, discriminate, or silence members of our community.

We will accomplish this by:

  • Supporting students, staff, and faculty experiencing threats both covert and overt so they will not feel alone: You are not alone;
  • Using our scholarship, resources and knowledge to inform and expand policy and public opinion on issues related to race, racism and hate-based violence in educational settings from K-12, higher education, local community and the larger national and international community;
  • Finding ways to value similarities, communicate across differences, and respect constructive conflict;
  • Holding ourselves and our College accountable to address all forms of oppression that dehumanize or objectify any member of the Hawkeye community.

The faculty, staff, and students of the College of Education will work toward living up to our values and we resolve to make our commitments known toward these ends.


*Watt, S. K. (2013). Designing and implementing multicultural initiatives: Guiding principles. In S. K. Watt, J. Linley (Eds.), Creating successful multicultural initiatives in higher education and student affairs (New Directions for Student Services, No. 144, pp. 5-16). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

*The Building Community Committee would like to say a special thank you to Barry Schreier, Director of University Counseling Center and Saba Ali, Faculty in Counseling Psychology for initiating this statement.

Uses of Power and Privilege[1]

In the COE programming for the AY 206-2017, we would like you to consider explorations of power and privilege.  This statement offers some guides for defining those terms.

As a result of various historical and structural processes, our society is organized around relationships of Power and Privilege.

Power describes the sociopolitical processes that characterize one groups interaction with another.[2] At the individual level, it describes the capacity of individuals to control resources and influence decision making processes that have positive or negative outcomes for particular groups or individuals.

Privilege is a subtle and often invisible form of power which props up and normalizes certain viewpoints and experiences while portraying alternative views and experiences as non-normative or undesirable.[3]

Collectively, power and privilege are mutually reinforcing and advantages certain groups of people while marginalizing and oppressing others.

Power and Privilege dynamics are shaped by how individuals are positioned according to their sexual orientation, race, religion, gender, ability as well as class in social and institutional settings.

In the University setting in particular, power and privilege dynamics are often displayed in interactions between administrators and faculty, faculty and staff and students and faculty and administrators. 

Potential questions to explore:

  1. What is power and privilege?
  2. How does power and privilege playout in our society, our community, and in our college?
  3. How is power and privilege experienced in your life? How does it interfere, mediate, or influence your relationships?
  4. How does one confront barriers reinforced by power and privilege?
  5. How can you address barriers reinforced by power and privilege as a student, faculty, staff, educator, helping professional, parent, community member?

[1] By Marius Kothor in collaboration with MCI Research Consortium members, Lindsay Jarratt and Amanda Mollet

[2] Sherry K. Watt, “Moving Beyond the Talk: From Difficult Dialogue to Action” in Why aren’t we there Yet?: Taking Personal Responsibility for Creating an Inclusive Campus, ed. Jan Arminio, Vasti Torres and Raechele L. Pope (Sterling: Stylus Publications, 2012), 133.

[3] Antoinette Myers and Yuka Ogino Power, Privilege and Oppression [PDF Document]. Retrieved from:

Sherry Watt (co-chair), Will Coghill-Behrends (co-chair), Amanda Thein, Robert Posekany, Jason Harshman, Renita Schmidt, Nancy Langguth, Mei-Ling Shaw-Williams, Chris Annicella, Janice Byrd, Elizabeth Holm, Marius Kothor

The Building Community Committee meets monthly throughout the academic school year and coordinates several events in partnership with other groups on campus. If you are interested in becoming a member of the group, send an email to either of the co-chairs.

Building Community Reads

Reading with Patrick book cover
The Baker Teacher Leader Center and Building Community Initiative are excited to partner once again with the One Community, One Book Program through the UI Center for Human Rights.

Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship (Michelle Kuo).

Free copies are available to College of Education faculty, staff, and students - visit the N110 LC reception desk.

Building Community Reads Events


Friday, October 26, 12:00 - 1:00 p.m., Jones Commons (N300 LC)