It is my privilege to speak to you today as the dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, one of this year’s ISCORE champions.
As the nation’s first public college of veterinary medicine, we have a proud tradition of training veterinarians to serve society in multiple different ways and we have a number of distinguished alumni.
One of the most distinguished is Dr. Frederick Douglass Patterson. A 1923 graduate, Dr. Patterson was one of the first African-Americans to graduate from our college.
Now you may not know of Dr. Patterson but you are no doubt aware of his accomplishments.
Dr. Patterson was director of the School of Agriculture at the Tuskegee Institute before becoming president of this same prestigious institute for 20 years. In this role, he led the transformation of Tuskegee from an institute to a full-fledged university, today known as Tuskegee University. During this time, he also founded the Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine, one of only 32 colleges of veterinary medicine in the US.
He was the founder of the United Negro College Fund, an organization which has raised over $5 Billion to support minority education.
Dr. Patterson had an impact that was broader than just higher education. He was a driving force behind the formation of a group of African-American and Caribbean-born military pilots who heroically fought in World War II and are better known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
In 1987, Dr. Patterson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan in recognition of his lifetime of leadership and success in the educational field.
In his autobiography, Chronicles of Faith, Dr. Patterson wrote…
“In the veterinary program, I did not feel odd being a part of the group of students working in the veterinary clinic although I was the only black person there. The absence of animosity encouraged me to see veterinary medicine as a field in which I could practice without being hampered by the racial stereotypes and obstacles that would confront me as a medical doctor.”
Dr. Patterson wrote of his experiences at this university… in our college, nearly a century ago.
I wish I could say that Dr. Patterson’s experiences are the same as our students are experiencing in 2020. As I’m sure you know or can imagine, the experience on campus, in Ames and throughout this country is quite different from the one Dr. Patterson chronicled.
Sure we’ve made some progress over the last century. Today’s ISCORE conference is one example of how we as a university recognize that our work is far from done. And that work won’t be completed as long as ONE student, faculty, staff, alumni or visitor at Iowa State University is ostracized on this campus.
A university by its nature is a place where free thought should prevail. A place where all students can prepare themselves for the next stage of their lives without living in fear. If we as a university cannot embrace the diversity of our community then where can these individuals feel safe and comfortable?
Imagine a campus like the one Dr. Patterson described. A campus where a student of color wouldn’t feel outcast if they were the only non-white student in a study group. A campus where a LGBTQIA+ student wouldn’t encounter any obstacles throughout their four years completing a degree. A campus where an African-American student could have the same experience Dr. Patterson described during his time in the college of veterinary medicine nearly a century ago – one where they could pursue their chosen profession without ANY stereotypes.
That’s the campus we should strive for at Iowa State. One I hope that we can achieve in the College of Veterinary Medicine and across the entire ISU campus.
This won’t be easy. It will take all of us working together. Those of you here today will be on the front lines to achieve this goal. You have to take what you learn and experience today and share it with those students, faculty, staff and alumni not in attendance.
If Dr. Patterson walked on campus today, I think he would be pleased with the progress we’ve made at the College of Veterinary Medicine.
- That we have a diversity and inclusion committee that is working to further identify and implement ways to make CVM a more diverse and inclusive community.
- That we have initiated a summer program to prepare undergraduate students from under represented populations in veterinary medicine to better prepare them to be more competitive in the admissions process to colleges of veterinary medicine around the US
- That we have modified our admissions process that often presented barriers to students from under represented populations, first generation students and students from lower socio economic backgrounds
- And that this work has increased diversity in our students from 6% to 14% over the last three years and that faculty diversity has steadily increased to 18% which ranks 10th among the 32 CVMs in the US
- That we have cohorts of faculty and students that have and will be participating in the Purdue University Certificates for Diversity & Inclusion in Veterinary Medicine.
- That the college’s Office of Curricular Assessment and Teaching Support provides training to help faculty create a welcoming teaching environment and that all of our faculty either have or will participate in the Center for Excellence and Teaching Inclusive Training program
- That the college organizes the Dr. Martin Luther King Day of Service in which Students, Faculty and Staff come together and volunteer with several local community organizations
But I think he would share my thoughts that we still have more to accomplish. I’m sure he would be concerned that our underrepresented students still feel alone. Still think of themselves as outcasts. Still hear comments that are hurtful. And still face obstacles in not ONLY earning a degree, but working in a profession they love. Recent events in the College of Veterinary Medicine and across campus further highlight that work to create an inclusive community that is a great place to work and learn is not done.
Dr. Patterson’s legacy to higher education is immense. I pledge that the College of Veterinary Medicine will continue not only to strive to live up to his legacy, but make continuous strides to achieve an inclusive community that is welcoming to all.
Thank you all for participating in ISCORE 2020 and being agents for positive change for Iowa State University.
Learn more about Dr. Frederick Douglass Patterson