Project History

The annual ISCORE conference started soon after the university’s 1998–99 yearlong university-wide celebration, “The Legacy of George Washington Carver—Inspiring Students to Become Their Best.” The first full conference was modeled after the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity (NCORE) and was held on March 3, 2000 thanks to the vision of former senior vice president for student affairs, Dr. Thomas L. Hill.

Dr. Hill had the inspiration and foresight to make the conference a reality and into the successful and highly praised institutional event now experienced by hundreds of students, staff and faculty every year. When Dr. Hill retired in March 2016, President Leath accepted the conference planning committee’s recommendation to rename the conference “Thomas L. Hill ISCORE: Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity” to reflect his role and commitment to the conference and the university.

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A Comprehensive NCORE-ISCORE History


Dr. Hill talking at a podium


Scholarship(s), given in honor of Dr. Thomas L. and Billye Hill, will be available to students who have attended the Thomas L. Hill Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity (ISCORE) and wish to further their experiences through research projects and the planning and presenting of future ISCORE sessions. 

Group posing in front of an ISCORE banner


The action plan was implemented at ISCORE 2019 as a tool for participants to take the knowledge gained at the conference and set follow up actions for impacting change in their role on campus. 


NCORE-ISCORE student ambassadors are alumni of the project and continue as peer educators. Their primary responsibilities include working with the administration to impact change.

Group discussing over a dinner at a conference


Due to the growing numbers of ISU professional attendance at NCORE, it was necessary to revamp the professional development experience. In addition to the current track for faculty and staff the Professional Development Academy, the Professional Development Network was added. 

The Professional Development Network is for faculty and staff who have attended NCORE in the past or who are attending but not participating in the Professional Development Academy. Professional Development Network members are paired with a learning partner to reflect upon NCORE-ISCORE and create a personal development action plan relating to NCORE-ISCORE ideals. 

A man and woman smiling at the camera with arms around eachother


Until this time, the coordination of the NCORE- ISCORE project was done by staff volunteers from across the university. In 2017 Senior Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Martino Harmon, created a university office dedicated to race and ethnicity training and programming. A director, Japannah Kellogg was named, and the NCORE-ISCORE Project became the NCORE-ISCORE Office, a part of the Division of Student Affairs. The NCORE-ISCORE Office coordinates the Thomas L. Hill Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity (ISCORE) held in March and Iowa State University’s participation in the annual National Conference on Race and Ethnicity (NCORE).

Group photo with someone holding a framed award


When Dr. Hill retired in March 2016, President Leath accepted the conference planning committee’s recommendation to rename the conference “Thomas L. Hill ISCORE: Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity” to reflect his role and commitment to the conference and the university. 


NCORE-ISCORE Champions are colleges or university organizations that are selected based on their work around diversity and inclusion and desire to support the NCORE-ISCORE project. The integration of NCORE-ISCORE Champions has been very successful in highlighting collaboration across campus in efforts of diversity and inclusion. Each year Champions are featured in the ISCORE conference program, ISCORE website, and speak at the ISCORE conference. Click here to learn more about College Champions.

First pre-conference 135 attendees


As the attendance at ISCORE grew, the organizing committee decided to provide additional opportunities for involvement and information sharing. The ISCORE pre-conference was created as a half-day conference preceding the full day ISCORE conference. Open to faculty and staff only, the pre-conference is a way for Iowa State University to have more professional development and dialogue around race and ethnicity. The first year the pre-conference was held, 135 professional staff attended. 

Group of people sitting in a circle


In 2013 a small team of professionals from different departments within the Division of Student Affairs attend NCORE in New Orleans. From this group, the Professional Development Academy formed with the same purpose as the student cohort. 

The Professional Development Academy is a professional and personal development opportunity designed to strengthen dialogic skills and allow participants to engage in productive interpersonal conversations relating to equity, diversity, and inclusion on campus—with a focus on race and ethnicity. The program is open to faculty and staff who are attending NCORE for their first or second time. The 20-person academy includes a series of small-group dialogue sessions before, during, and following the NCORE Conference.

Three people posing around a framed photo


In recognition of her work, ISCORE developed the Brenda Jones Change Agent Award, given annually to an ISCORE student alumnus. The award recognizes an alumn who demonstrates personal growth in understanding issues related to race and ethnicity, contributes to the awareness of topics relating to race and ethnicity among peers, and passionately uses their talents to create change in their community. 

This award impacts far more than just the ISU community. This award allows Iowa State University to support and recognize alumni that continue to make a difference, serve as an example for the current students, after the NCORE-ISCORE experience. 

Brenda Jones, a university professor of art and visual culture, has created artwork for each ISCORE conference since its inception. Her striking paintings, dominated by faces – brown, black, and white – have become a fitting symbol of the event that promotes understanding across races and ethnicities. 

Not only has Brenda Jones positively impacted the conference with her artwork, she regularly attends the conference sharing her unique perspective, especially with students. 

2007 ISCORE Flyer


In 2007 ISCORE registration was moved to an online platform making it easier to promote and register across campus. This change is greatly improved attendance at the conference for the next several years. The increase from 363 to 650 in 2007 caught the attention of ISU administration, who used the conference as a talking point at the Board of Regents.

2 men posing for a photo in front of an ISCORE banner


As the NCORE-ISCORE student scholars program gained momentum, it was essential to define and set expectations both at the national conference and back on campus. The year-long program begins in May with attendance at and participation in NCORE. Then the following fall semester, students enroll in UST 321—a course designed to expand knowledge around issues of race and provide the tools needed to deliver a thought-provoking presentation at ISCORE. Students are divided into teams to research and create a presentation on a specific ethnicity. Students are guided by faculty/staff team leaders during the year-long experience and have completed the program at the end of ISCORE in the spring.

Photo of first NCORE-ISCORE members


The Iowa State University community dedicated the 1998-1999 academic year to the legacy of Dr. George Washington Carver, Iowa State’s first African American student, and faculty member. The George Washington Carver Celebration Steering Committee, comprised of faculty, staff, and students, developed and implemented a variety of programs, events, and activities that honored and celebrated the contributions of Dr. Carver. The steering committee identified the need to develop an ongoing program that would promote dialogue and raise awareness of issues involving race and ethnicity in higher education. The NCORE-ISCORE Project was created to address this need, and the project was approved and funded by President Martin C. Jischke. 

The first NCORE-ISCORE Project delegation consisted of 14 students, 3 faculty, and 16 staff who attended the 12th Annual National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education (NCORE) in Memphis, TN, June 3-7, 1999. This original cohort then shared the information and knowledge they gained in Memphis at the first Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity (ISCORE) held on March 3, 2000, thanks to the vision of former Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Thomas L. Hill. 

The ISCORE 2000 planning committee included Thomas L. Hill, Rafael Rodriguez, Phyllis Harris, Nina Grant, Pamela Thomas, Lee Ann Davis, Meaghan Kozar, Veronica Maldonado, Sherry Cronin.