January 2023 DEI Newsletter

University of Iowa CBE Department

CBE DEI group, 5 people

In this newsletter

Upcoming Events

STEM Celebration of MLK

Grad appreciation week

Training opportunities

"It takes a day to celebrate a year"

Improving the teaching and learning experience

Our efforts to support TAs and improve classes

Electronic kiosk and suggestion box

Jennifer Fiegel as Inaugural Dean's Fellow

Become a DEI Ambassador

Fall GEM Consortium Conference

Fall GEM Consortium Conference

GEM Fellow and CBE graduate student Marisol Contreras attended the national GEM meeting along with four other students and staff members from the University of Iowa College of engineering.

College-Wide Challenge

In December we launched a challenge for 100% faculty and staff completion of an online interactive module, Cultivating Inclusive Communities, which focuses on how to encourage respectful and productive dialogue “difficult conversations” around diversity, inclusion, and identity on campus. The training is for faculty and staff and can be found here.

Inclusive environment:

All students in the department feel a sense of belonging and safety. People of all cultural orientations can freely express who they are, their own opinions and points of view. They can fully participate in teaching, learning, work and social activities, and feel safe from abuse, harassment or unfair criticism.

23 people in a group photo in a wooden room

Kiosk and electronic suggestion box

An electronic kiosk was added to the 4200 hallway for us to show key information and the good things happening in the department. The DEI council will be putting content on the kiosk related to student support, mental health counseling services, and other forms of student support that can help students get through the tough patches.

Electronic Suggestion Box

framed AIChe poster on the wall

Grad Student Events

The Department held a Graduate Student Welcome Picnic at City Park in August 2022 (photo above). The Graduate Student DEI Ambassadors are part of the planning team for graduate student social events!
The Graduate Student DEI Ambassadors are planning a celebration during graduate student appreciation week (Apr 5-9) called “it takes a day to celebrate a year” where holiday traditions and special foods will be featured from our diverse graduate community and celebrated by staff, faculty, graduate students, and the families and friends of our graduate students

Jennifer Fiegel

Fiegel selected as inaugural Dean’s Fellow

CBE's professor Jennifer Fiegel has been named the College of Engineering's inaugural Dean's fellow for 2022-23. In this position, professor Fiegel will focus on integrating inclusive learning and diversity throughout the college. Professor Fiegel has been using the Chemical and Biochemical Engineering department as a testing ground to develop strategies to improve the culture of engineering. She has developed a scaffolded approach that includes three main elements: weekly challenges, guided workshops, and faculty retreats. Together, these allow us to shape our future and make positive change happen.

Upcoming Events

Martin luther King Jr

STEM Celebration of MLK, Social Responsibility in STEM

1505 Seamans Center

Ongoing (College of Engineering)


CoE DEI Events

Iowa City Climate Action Today logo

Accelerating Black Leadership in Sustainability

Virtual, on Zoom

Ongoing (University of Iowa)


UI Opportunities

Get Involved, Get Trained

We have open spots on our CBE DEI Council for undergraduate and graduate students – especially in our ambassador groups – these are groups of students that meet periodically and work in three areas: (1) reporting to the council how things are going, (2) working as a learning community to learn more about challenges, opportunities, and best practices in DEI, and (3) helping to identify and hold community-building events.

CBE DEI Council 2023 Goals

  • Recruit, train, and support student DEI Ambassadors
  • Enhance ongoing CBE-wide faculty discussion on inclusive teaching
  • Create robust evidence-based recruiting & retention plans
  • Monitor anonymous virtual suggestion box
  • Develop DEI and student support content for electronic kiosk
  • Support department-wide recruiting efforts
  • Monitor efficacy of recent improvements regarding TA resources
  • Host thank-you and networking events

Improving the Teaching and Learning Experience

Back in March of 2022, we held a dynamic focus group where our TAs met with professional facilitators to take stock of teaching, learning, and the student experience – from a TA perspective. Led by Academic Support and Retention, and the Center for Teaching and Learning, tons of great feedback came out of that session.
Fall 2022, we’ve been busy overseeing implementation of many of the suggestions that came out of the March workshop.
Starting in August 2022, we implemented universal TA training with a focus on better preparing our TAs to step into the role of instructor. Sessions were held that focused on the responsibilities of mentoring and tutoring students, expressing confidence and competency in the classroom and laboratory, and identifying students that would benefit from additional academic, counseling, and career development support. We are implementing best practices for working with teaching assistants, such as ensuring that TA expectations for every class are formally documented and provided at the beginning of the semester to each TA; that all instructors hold course pre-meetings with their TAs to discuss learning goals, TA expectations, and roles for the courses; and that a central repository (a Microsoft Teams site) is available for TAs with class-specific information (problem sets and solutions, grading rubrics, recorded lectures or lab videos, etc.) for each course.
We expanded our program of CBE study/HW hours to include both the 2nd year and 3rd year CBE students. These hours are a chance for students to join their fellow classmates and TAs from all their CBE classes to work together, ask questions, develop engineering study groups, and build community. We hope this is an approachable way to find help in doing assignments and projects.
Specific course changes have been implemented in addition to the training, pre-meetings, and written expectations mentioned above:

  • Fluid Flow: the syllabus was reworked to be student centered; assignments were re-written to enhance transparency for students and TAs, which includes information about why students are learning specific content, where the information can be applied in the real world, and specific examples showing how grading of assignments is completed.
  • CRE Sep Lab: Dr. Stanier played fun music to lighten the mood and pep students up before presentations. The syllabus was re-written to be student centered; paper resources were converted to electronic and updated; lab reports were streamlined.
  • Process Control: Increased use of a student consulting group for biweekly feedback. Streamlined lab reports by introducing “post-lab worksheets” to hit the same learning goals using a format that is more straightforward and time-efficient for students.

At the end of the semester, we surveyed our TA's about what they thought about these changes. 100% of our TA's would recommend serving as a TA to their peers. From a DEI perspective, 80% of our TA's could recall at least one instance during the semester where they took a concrete action supporting an inclusive learning environment.