"How can I help students of color feel welcome at Iowa State?" As multicultural liaison officer for Iowa State's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, that's the question Der Vang asks herself nearly every day. Sometimes it means walking a student through financial aid options. Other times it means introducing students to professionals from similar backgrounds. But one thing it always means is being there for students whenever they need her.
Vang oversees a host of activities throughout the year, like informational meetings and social opportunities where students can get to know one other. She also manages the Bridging Opportunities in Leadership and Diversity (BOLD) learning community, where multicultural students find support from staff, faculty, and other students who understand their diverse experiences and identities. Said Vang, "One of the best ways to help students feel welcomed is to get them engaged with students who share similar experiences and backgrounds. Another way is to connect them with faculty and staff on campus who can be their allies and mentors."
Veronica Middlebrooks, senior in biology (pre-med), says Vang acts as a great connector. Said Middlebrooks, "Der makes it her duty to connect with the multicultural students and her door is always open. She has created a space where I and others like myself can feel like we belong." Middlebrooks also said she knows she can always go to Der as her college liaison as well as the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, whether she needs to talk to a staff member, find a quiet place to study, or even just use the printer.
Der Vang is just one of the many people waiting to help you feel welcome at Iowa State. In fact, everywhere you turn on campus you'll be greeted by a friendly face ready to help you along your adventure -- whether it be a professor in your English class, a peer mentor in your chemistry learning community, or a staff member at the library. At Iowa State, it's almost like "welcoming" is our middle name.
Der's story and photo originally appeared on Iowa State Unversity's homepage.