Diverse Voices "Write to Change the World" - The OpEd Project at the UI

Authored on:

Nov 10, 2015

Taking the Plunge in Public Writing

Women represent almost 50 percent of the world’s population.

Why is it, then, that the range of voices heard in the world is incredibly narrow and comes from a tiny sliver of the population: mostly western, older, privileged, and overwhelmingly—85 percent!—male?

University of Iowa Obermann Center for Advanced Studies Director Teresa Mangum wants to get more diverse voices, especially women’s voices, out in the world.

So, when she learned about The Op-Ed Project, she wanted to bring it to the UI campus.

Amplifying Underrepresented Voices

The project is a social venture founded to increase the range of voices and quality of ideas heard in the world.

Working with universities, think tanks, foundations, nonprofits, corporations, and community organizations, the organization scouts and trains under-represented experts —especially women—to take thought-leadership positions in their fields (through op eds and much more); connect them with an international network of high-level media mentors; and vet and channel the best new ideas and experts directly to media gatekeepers on all media platforms.

Twenty-one UI faculty representing diverse disciplines and backgrounds were selected to participate in a two-day “Write to Change the World” workshop Nov. 7 and 8—the first time the workshop has been offered on the UI campus.

The workshop was made possible thanks to support from the following: the UI Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, the UI Chief Diversity Office, the Office of Strategic Communication, the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Faculty's Unique Perspective

Though there is a substantial amount of expertise at the UI, Mangum adds, sometimes people do not view themselves as thought leaders or experts with something valuable to share.

“One of the joys of directing the Obermann Center is that I meet so many faculty members whose ideas are changing the world behind the scenes," Mangum says. "But professors usually focus on their students and their work, not realizing that their expertise gives them a unique perspective on current issues. Routine voices in the media often jump to conclusions; Op Ed workshops draw very smart tortoises out of their shells so they can start to keep pace with those eager, often short-sighted hares.”

Mangum adds that this workshop was for people taking their first plunge into writing op eds and other forms of public writing.

“We recruited novices with exciting work to share who were eager to find ways to be effective citizen-scholars," Mangum says. “We want to empower faculty to take their expertise to a broader audience using more public platforms. By doing so, they’ll help us do what strong universities do best—get a broader range of perspectives out into the world. That benefits everyone.”

Two award-winning journalists, Mary Curtis and Lauren Sandler, led the two-day workshop.

UI Participants in OpEd Workshop

  • Loyce Arthur is an associate professor in the UI Department of Theatre Arts. She has designed costumes for numerous productions and enjoys the process of telling stories about people from a variety of world cultures.
  • Mériam N. Belli is an associate professor who teaches the history of the Middle East and North Africa in the UI Department of History. Her work examines social and cultural experiences, beliefs, and practices and their representations and re-inventions.
  • Keisha N. Blain, UI assistant professor of history, specializes in twentieth-century U.S. history, African American history, the modern African Diaspora, and women’s and gender studies.
  • Amy Butler, associate professor in the UI School of Social Work in the Graduate College, is focusing on the consequences of sexual assault on young women’s mental health, smoking behavior, and substance use and abuse.
  • Jean Gordon is an associate professor in the UI Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders whose research focuses on spoken-language production and how it changes with normal aging or with the onset of neurogenic language disorders, such as aphasia.
  • Keri Hornbuckle is the Donald E. Bently Professor of Engineering and associate dean for academic programs in the UI College of Engineering.
  • Brandi Janssen is a clinical assistant professor in Occupational and Environmental Health and the director of Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH). Jansen trained as an anthropologist, and her research examines the production and marketing strategies of local food producers and their relationships with conventional agricultural production.
  • Anita Jung is a professor of intaglio and print media in the UI’s School of Art and Art History whose interdisciplinary collaborative work began as investigations regarding violence toward women.
  • Kristy Nabhan-Warren, UI associate professor of religious studies and Figge Chair of Catholic Studies.
  • Marizen Ramirez is an associate professor in occupational and environmental health in the College of Public Health. Her many research interests include areas such as sports injuries, disaster epidemiology, youth violence, post-traumatic stress, and school-based injuries and violence.
  • Michael Sakamoto is an assistant dance professor and an interdisciplinary artist active in dance, theater, media, and photography. His work has been presented in 14 countries.
  • Leslie Schwalm is a UI historian and feminist scholar who teaches in the UI History and Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies departments.
  • Jacki Thompson Rand is a UI associate professor of history and co-coordinator of the American Indian and Native Studies Programs. Her courses focus on federal Indian law and policy, museums and memory, and public history.
  • Wenfang Tang is a professor, director of undergraduate studies, and the C. Maxwell and Elizabeth M. Stanley Family and Hua Hsia Chair of Chinese Culture and Institutions and teaches in the UI Department of Political Science. His research and teaching focus on political and social change in contemporary China.
  • H.S. Udaykumar is a UI professor of mechanical and industrial engineering whose research interests have been in the areas of moving-boundary problems as they apply to materials processing, biofluid dynamics, and high-speed, multi-material flows.
  • Sarah Vigmostad is an associate professor in biomedical engineering. Her research focuses on the advancement of physiologic computational modeling so that clinically relevant questions can be asked and answered in order to improve disease diagnosis and treatment.
  • Darrel Wanzer-Serrano is an assistant professor of rhetoric and public advocacy in the UI Department of Communication Studies and a founding member of the UI Latina/Latino Studies Minor Advisory Board.
  • Sherry K. Watt is an associate professor in the Higher Education and Student Affairs Program in the UI College of Education. Her area of research explores various reactions people have to difficult dialogues related to social issues. She applies her research by teaching learners how to develop the skills to engage across differences.
  • Jessica Welburn is a UI assistant professor of sociology and African American studies. Her research interests include race and ethnicity, urban inequality, and the experiences of African Americans in the post-Civil Rights Era.
  • Marian Wilson Kimber is an associate professor of musicology in the UI School of Music. Her research has centered on biography, gender, musical reception, and the intersection of poetic recitation and music in the nineteenth century.
  • Patricia Zebrowski is a professor in the UI Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. Her research, teaching, and clinical work focus on the development of stuttering in early childhood and the cognitive factors underlying change readiness for teenagers who stutter.

Learn more about The Op Ed Project and view bio sketches for all faculty members who participated.

~Article by Lois Gray, appeared in Iowa Now on October 9, 2015