Community draws people back to ISCORE

Two decades ago, a snowstorm threatened to upend the sixth Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity (ISCORE). Japannah Kellogg, then the director of the TRIO Student Support Services office, had just received the baton to organize the annual event, and he was nervous. Would the keynote speaker make it to Iowa? Would anyone show up?

They did. Kicking snow off their boots and shedding layers in the Memorial Union, the speaker and more than 400 staff, faculty and students gathered to present and learn about new research, hear different perspectives and unpack complicated, sometimes difficult topics. Since then, the conference -- named the Thomas L. Hill Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity in 2016 for the former senior vice president for student affairs -- has grown.

"Something that's been resonating with me is that people come to ISCORE for community. We have representation from all over campus, either through presenting or attending or serving on a committee. The Memorial Union, ISU Dining and Enrollment Services, which manages registration for ISCORE, play a big role as well," said Kellogg, who became the director of the NCORE-ISCORE Office in 2017.

Woman speaks with four female students about a research poster

Connie Hargrave (left), associate dean for equity and engagement in the College of Engineering, speaks with George Washington Carver Scholars during the lunchtime poster session at ISCORE 2023. Submitted photo.

Kellogg gave the analogy of a book club to describe how ISCORE adds meaning to the sessions. You can learn from reading a text, but discussing specific sections with others and hearing different perspectives enhances your understanding. Kellogg said he sees this happen organically at ISCORE between sessions, in hallways and during meals. Often, it's among people from different departments and units on campus.

"The feedback that I've received over the years from people who are new to Iowa State is that they're impressed, and those who have come back year after year are excited for it. They look forward to the conference," Kellogg said.

Two options

This year, the half-day preconference for Iowa State faculty, staff and graduate students lands on Wednesday, Feb. 28. It includes eight sessions and an afternoon speech by Amy Popillion, teaching professor in the human development and family studies department. Kellogg said the pre-conference offers a supportive environment for faculty and staff to share their experiences, as well as an opportunity for growth and connection.

The 24th ISCORE for faculty, staff, graduate students and undergraduate students is the following day, Thursday, Feb. 29. The full-day conference includes 26 sessions and morning speaker Tin-Shi Tam, Cownie Professor of Music and university carillonneur. Noelani Puniwai, assistant professor at the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian studies at the University of Hawaii, will give the keynote speech: "Re"story"ing our Relationships in Science for a Healthy and Abundant Future."

Registering for one or both days is free, but limited to 300 participants for the pre-conference and 1,200 for the full conference. As of Wednesday afternoon, registration numbers were at about 260 and 400, respectively.