Tag Archives: equity

Message from the Director: New Beginnings

by Dr. Megan Foley-Nicpon, Belin-Blank Center Director

August is synonymous with new beginnings for many of us.

Kids are heading back to school – it is my favorite time to check social media feeds to see friends post first-day-of-school pictures. On campus, we welcomed new students from across the globe, including new arrivals to our Bucksbaum Early Entrance and Twice-Exceptional Academies. Over the weekend, thousands of students met new friends, ate ice cream on the University of Iowa’s President’s lawn, and learned the Iowa fight song.

It’s a great time to be a Hawkeye!  

New beginnings are also happening at the Belin-Blank Center – I started as Director on August 1st.

I am not new to Iowa or the Center, however. I arrived in January 2004 as a postdoctoral scholar in the Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic. I later became a licensed psychologist, focusing mainly on assessment and intervention with twice-exceptional youth. In 2008, I joined the UI Counseling Psychology faculty.

There, I have had the honor of training future child psychologists, researching talent development among underrepresented groups, and serving the college, University, and Iowa community.

In the Belin-Blank Center’s 34-year history, there have been only two directors before me: Nicholas Colangelo and Susan Assouline. Both are giants in the field known internationally for their development of the Center, love for and dedication to talented youth, and commitment to creating best practices for acceleration and twice-exceptional intervention. I am honored to continue their legacy and the legacy of the Center.

I know these are big shoes to fill.

However, I join a dedicated staff and faculty who care deeply about the Center and its mission. I am certain we will continue to do great things. We seek to be the leaders in talent development for elementary through university-aged students; diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in gifted education; research and discovery for high ability and twice-exceptional youth; and collaboration and outreach both within and outside the University.

Together, we will embrace this new beginning and continue the Belin-Blank Center’s impact far into the future.

Message from the Director: Opening Doors for Talent Development

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

“You’re a girl; you don’t need to take calculus.”

I’ve never forgotten those words stated by my high school counselor when I inquired about registering for calculus my senior year. That was then. I didn’t even question the statement. Not taking calculus in high school probably closed some doors for me, but other doors — education and psychology – opened.

Many decades have passed since then. Legislation prohibiting discrimination based on sex or “…any other classification that deprives the person of consideration as an individual[i]” has opened doors to more opportunities for more people. We are all better off because of those legalities. Nevertheless, much work remains concerning nondiscrimination, societal racism, and social justice. Furthermore, we have not fully addressed the most significant issue facing students, families, and educators: inequality in educational programming, especially in access to gifted education. The gifted programming inequalities in schools nationwide are society’s way of saying, “You’re a _________; you don’t need access to gifted programming.”  Educators, researchers, and psychologists can do better.

This spring, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) dedicated an entire issue of their flagship journal, Gifted Child Quarterly, to equity in gifted education. I applaud my colleagues who contributed to that special issue, which catalyzed the entire field to reflect and act. We can all make a difference in addressing this pernicious problem in education, which reflects a broader problem related to discrimination and lack of respect for diversity. At the Belin-Blank Center, we continuously aspire to offer services and programming focused on talent development through our student programs and professional development opportunities. We seek to recognize the strengths and potential of a diverse student population more fully.

As a high school junior, I didn’t know then the impact of being excluded from an educational opportunity based on one educator’s bias about girls and advanced math. Now I recognize that that experience was the entry point to a career as an educator, administrator, and researcher dedicated to ensuring that we extend opportunities to all who would benefit from them.

Bias, whether implicit or explicit, leads to exclusion and discrimination that has long-term consequences. It denies marginalized communities and people opportunities that would positively contribute to their lives and to society. Each of us has the power to chip away at discrimination through our words and our actions.

There has been improvement for some, but there is much more to do. I have hope because of a new generation of educators. This generation has greater awareness of the vastness of human potential, which we should not limit based on “classification that deprives the person of consideration as an individual.” As we look to the future, professional educators must ensure that inclusion and equity become focal points of practice and policy. We aim to lead the way.


[i] The University of Iowa prohibits discrimination in employment, educational programs, and activities on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, disability, genetic information, status as a U.S. veteran, service in the U.S. military, sexual orientation, gender identity, associational preferences, or any other classification that deprives the person of consideration as an individual. The university also affirms its commitment to providing equal opportunities and equal access to university facilities. For additional information on nondiscrimination policies, contact the Director, Office of Institutional Equity, the University of Iowa, 202 Jessup Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242-1316, 319-335-0705, oie-ui@uiowa.edu.

Excellence Gaps in Education

On June 22, we are offering a three-week book study about Excellence Gaps in Education (Plucker & Peters, 2016). This online class (asynchronous) focuses on strategies we can use to eliminate the achievement gaps that exist even among the students who perform at the highest levels (EDTL:4096:0WKD).  

This is a new class, and if you haven’t read Excellence Gaps, this is the time!  Excellence Gaps won the 2017 Book of the Year award from NAGC, and our need to understand excellence gaps—going beyond achievement gaps—is more important than ever.  The Harvard Education Press posted:

In Excellence Gaps in Education, Jonathan A. Plucker and Scott J. Peters shine a spotlight on “excellence gaps”—the achievement gaps among subgroups of students performing at the highest levels of achievement. Much of the focus of recent education reform has been on closing gaps in achievement between students from different racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic backgrounds by bringing all students up to minimum levels of proficiency. Yet issues related to excellence gaps have been largely absent from discussions about how to improve our schools and communities. Plucker and Peters argue that these significant gaps reflect the existence of a persistent talent underclass in the United States among African American, Hispanic, Native American, and poor students, resulting in an incalculable loss of potential among our fastest growing populations.

This is one of the Belin-Blank Center classes this summer intended to help educators ensure that their districts are doing everything possible to ensure that they are identifying and serving ALL their gifted learners—including those that have been traditionally underrepresented.  The other two classes include 

  • Talent Development: Arts, Academics, and Athletics (EDTL:4096:0WKB), focus in on the preparation required for gifted performers, and 
  • Serving Visual/Spatial Learners, discussing ways to provide programming for students identified for advanced abilities beyond mathematical and English/Language Arts abilities.

To take part in our classes, you must register one time each year with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student. For the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status. If you won’t benefit in other ways from the graduate credit, you can save tuition dollars. Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest or benefit you. Follow belinblank.org/educators/reg. All our classes fulfill strands required for endorsement, and the study of Excellence Gaps can apply to the Administrative strand.

Questions?  Email educators@belinblank.org!

We look forward to having you join us for this one-semester-hour workshop, and for other classes available through June and July.