Dr. Michael D. Blackwell
Director for Multicultural Education
Michael D. Blackwell earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in government from Wesleyan University, a Master of Divinity degree from Yale University, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in social ethics from Boston University. He became Director for Multicultural Education at the University of Northern Iowa in the fall of 1995. He is also an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Philosophy and Religion. Michael is very involved in the local community, and his primary interests—scholarly, professional, and personal—concern redressing the plight of the poor and otherwise disadvantaged. He is an ordained minister and has served pastorates in Baptist and United Methodist churches.
Dr. Blackwell writes a blog, "Social Ethics." Begun September 2, 2009. The blog features Dr. B.'s comments on current events and issues at:
For a year and a half, Michael worked in various ministerial capacities in churches and in community agencies, then decided to enroll in a doctoral program at the Graduate School of Boston University. He worked as a Peace with Justice intern for the School of Theology and took courses in the Division of Religious and Theological Studies and also in the summer institutes at the W. E. B. Du Bois Center of Harvard University. In the Fall of 1986, he began his teaching career at Curry College, where he remained as an instructor for three years, and in the fall of 1990, he took a job as an assistant professor of religious studies at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield. At SMSU, he was instrumental in starting an African American Studies Minor and a Multicultural Resource Center. He was involved in a number of community agencies, such as the Interfaith AIDS Network, the Cable Television Commission, the Minority Affairs Council of the School Board, the branch office of the NAACP, and the Advisory Board of Springfield Public Television. Defending his dissertation in the summer of 1992, he was installed as pastor of Pitts Chapel United Methodist Church and became a lecturer for the Missouri Humanities Council. After being awarded his Ph.D., with distinction, in Social Ethics from B.U. in Jan. 1994, Michael began a weekly television show about minority affairs on the local PBS station. In addition, he was a featured columnist on the editorial page of the local newspaper, The News-Leader.
In the fall of 1995, Michael relocated to Cedar Falls where he became Director for Multicultural Education and an adjunct professor in philosophy and religion at the University of Northern Iowa. He coordinates the programs and activities of the Center for Multicultural Education and teaches subjects such as Christian Moral Thought, Religion and Ethics, the African American Religious Experience, Religions of the World, The Life and Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., and American Racial and Ethnic Minorities. While here, Michael has conducted a number of workshops on multicultural education and on building a diverse workplace and community. In addition, he has chaired the committee that has created a new American Ethnic Studies Minor on campus.
Michael has published in the areas of social ethics, pacifism, the Black Church, and spirituality. Recently, he has written a chapter on the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., and is writing another book on the church and social action. He has taught also at Southern Connecticut State University, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Boston University. Michael likes to write poems and short stories, and enjoys reading biographies and mysteries.
Tabatha Cruz serves as the Program Coordinator for the CME. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Family Services from the University of Northern Iowa, and a Master of Science degree in College Student Personnel Administration from Illinois State University. Tabatha is passionate about the areas of diversity, social justice, leadership, and community service. One of her favorite quotes is “The purpose of life is to lead a life of purpose” by Richard Leider. Tabatha’s purpose in life is to educate others about the world and to explore it with an open mind.
Her hometowns include: New York (where she was born), Puerto Rico, Texas (where her family lives), Iowa, and Illinois. Because of her deep affection for Brazilian, Italian, Pilipino, and Indian culture, Tabatha considers herself a citizen of the world. The fine arts are Tabatha’s greatest loves in life and they have helped her explore and learn about other cultures. She enjoys watching cultural performances such as flamenco, Irish folk dance, or kabuki theater. On any given day you can find her listening to the sounds bhangra or samba music.
Tabatha looks forward to making an impact at UNI by challenging students to think differently about the world and motivating them to be agents of change. Her hope is that by the end of their journey at UNI, each student will have the necessary tools to interact in the globalized society we live in.
Center for Multicultural Education Secretary
Jennifer Murphy is the Secretary for the CME. She has worked as a secretary for many years, has attended Hawkeye Community College, sold Real Estate and is a Master Gardener. She has two children, Eric Murphy (spouse Kristina Higuchi) and Allison Rigdon (spouse Jared Rigdon) along with two grandchildren, Gauge and Cannon. Elk Run Heights., Iowa is her hometown where her parents and two of her brothers still live, with a last brother (a UNI Grad), living in Washington, D.C. Jenny comes to UNI from a decade of working as a secretary in the Waterloo Public Schools and has enjoys her work tremendously. Working with students of all ages is a rewarding aspect of her work and she also enjoys the office management and computer work that she does. In her spare time she enjoys family, do-it-yourself projects in remodeling her 1930's home, travel, biking, being in nature and reading. Jenny is very happy to be a part of the staff at the Center for Multicultural Education and the University of Northern Iowa and is always available if she can be of assistance to help someone!