2016-17 NCORE-ISCORE Brenda Jones Change Agent
The Brenda Jones Change Agent award recognizes an NCORE-ISCORE alumni who continues to contribute to the understanding and awareness of topics related to race and ethnicity and has created change in their community.
The 2016 NCORE-ISCORE Brenda Jones Change Agent award recipient was Markus Flynn. Markus has been instrumental in creating a more inclusive community through coordinating demonstrations, mentoring students, and advocating for students of color at Iowa State. He doesn’t focus on the problem but, rather, devotes his efforts to seeking solutions.
This summer we interviewed Markus and asked him to share his experience as an NCORE-ISCORE student.
For length and clarity, this interview was minimally edited.
Describe your NCORE-ISCORE experience.
When coming into it, I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. I kind of signed up expecting to just go somewhere and experience the different culture of a city (that I’d never been to) and then go to a conference. It turned out to be one of the more impactful things of my college experience. It was my first time being exposed to any critical race theories at all. I went into it my freshman year, so I had been experiencing micro-aggressions for the first time in my life having come from out of state. And I never had a term for that. I couldn’t put it into words.
So going into NCORE, and hearing all the different terminology being thrown around, and hearing all these words—I learned about micro-aggressions, intersectionality—it was an eye-opening experience. Just because I had all these different experiences, but could never put an actual term to it. That was great for me. Then actually going back to the class, was extremely helpful as well. Because then we got to go into more detail. I remember reading an article, I think one of the most impactful articles—one I still quote today—the Peggy McIntosh article on White privilege (White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack).
The [NCORE-ISCORE] class made it so that these concepts were so understandable and manageable for us. It was definitely one of the better experiences I ever had. I also had to do an academic presentation. I’ve done a few now but that was my first one. That was actually part of the reason I joined the class. I was so poor at public speaking that I put myself in a position where I had to do it. Doing the Lyrical Expression helped a lot because that was my first time really going up on stage and speaking into a microphone— especially to a group of people that large. Someone said there were 300 plus people in the crowd. And I hadn’t done anything like that in my life! I was really nervous to do it. To see where I was then in terms of public speaking to where I am now—there is a huge difference (in no small part due to NCORE-ISCORE).
Now that you’ve completed the program, how do you deal with your day-to-day school life at the university? Has there been a difference?
I would say [NCORE-ISCORE] has given me the background knowledge to approach [race and ethnicity] now. So it is a conversation I can have with someone. I now have this framework and knowledge that I have accumulated. I can have a real conversation with someone if I do feel that I’m being micro-aggressed (or something similar) so that I can approach them and flip the paradigm. Instead of it just affecting me and going unspoken, I can just approach them and have a real conversation with them.
And how have those conversations been received?
You know, it’s one of those things that’s hard. It’s hard to always speak up—especially if it’s a professor or someone who has that authority. It’s hard. But every time I’ve spoken up to someone, so far, it’s been well received. Usually it’s something that’s not intentional. It’s not like they are going out of their way and trying to do something. It’s just that —for lack of a better term —it’s just them being ignorant or naive. Honestly people do take it well when you speak up.
If someone was new to Iowa State and was nervous about being part of the NCORE-ISCORE project, what would you say to them?
I don’t think it’s anything to be nervous about, unless you are afraid of being woke. In that case, you might have something to worry about. But honestly, it is just a consciousness raising experience. It will open your eyes to a lot of different things. It will help you put a term to actual experiences that you are having. There is nothing to fear about it. It’s something that you should be really excited for. It’s an experience that I would recommend to pretty much all students—particularly students of color. Particularly younger students of color too. But anybody, if you have the chance for this experience, I would definitely recommend it.