Tuesday, April 13, 2021
Yolanda Spears leading a classroom full of college students.
Yolanda Spears teaching a class in Critical Cultural Competence

Social Work Clinical Assistant Professor Yolanda Spears has been named the recipient of a University of Iowa 2021 Diversity Catalyst Award. 

Sponsored by the University of Iowa Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the prestigious, institution-wide Diversity Catalyst Awards recognize faculty, staff, students, programs, departments, or organizations that have contributed in significant ways toward the development of an inclusive, diverse campus community at the University of Iowa.

“We are fortunate to have Professor Spears as a colleague, and delighted that she is receiving this well-deserved recognition,” said School of Social Work Director Mercedes Bern-Klug, MSW, PhD.

“We need classrooms—and this past year, Zoom rooms—where students receive support in effectively engaging with each other around issues related to diversity. Professor Spears remains committed to bringing innovation in methods and materials into her classrooms.”

In her nomination letter, fellow Social Work faculty member Julia Kleinschmit said, “In her teaching and support of students, Spears regularly goes above and beyond her job responsibilities and in all her work advances the university’s diversity goals.” Kleinschmit noted Spears’ creativity and empathy in teaching difficult topics, both at undergraduate and graduate levels, and also noted her high value as a peer educator within the social work profession and in service to the wider community. 

Spears, who coordinates the University of Iowa Certificate in Critical Cultural Competence, said, “I am amazed and joyful about being named a recipient of UI Catalyst Award. Finding a space to be continually creative and energized about spreading a message about diversity can feel like an uphill battle, but finding Black Joy is imperative. This is especially important during these stressful times--considering that we've experienced Black death, political turmoil, a deadly pandemic, and other traumas during recent years. I encourage you to check out the winners and send some joy and gratitude their way. We will not be deterred or silenced.”

The University of Iowa community will celebrate the Diversity Catalyst Awards in a virtual ceremony on April 21, 2021, recognizing recipients of the Catalyst Awards, the Diversity Catalyst Seed Grant, the Alliant Energy and Erroll B. Davis Jr. Achievement Award, and the presentation of B.U.I.L.D. (Building University of Iowa Leadership for Diversity) Certificates. 

Visit https://diversity.uiowa.edu/programs/diversity-catalyst-awards to learn more and register for the event.