Duo at Mount Mercy University tackling what it is like to be a black professional in Eastern Iowa

April Dirks-Bihun, an assistant professor of social work at Mount Mercy University, and Nathan Stern, a senior in social work at the university, had a question they wanted to answer. What is it like to be a black professional in Eastern Iowa? So the duo teamed up and decided to conduct a qualitative study attempting to answer the question. Over the course of four weeks in January, Dirks-Bihun and Stern interviewed a dozen professionals in the Corridor who work in a variety of areas. The goal of the interviews was to gather data on topics such as opportunity, diversity, barriers and racism when it comes to being a black professional in Cedar Rapids, Dirks-Bihun said. The pair wanted to highlight the strengths of the black professional community and gain feedback on how to grow the community, too. During the confidential interviews, the team asked a series of questions. For example, “What are some positive professional experiences you have had in the Corridor?” and “What qualities have you had or think you need to have to be successful in Cedar Rapids?” Another question asked how much education played a role in their career advancement. Dirks-Bihun and Stern have been working to compile the data they’ve collected through their surveys. The findings will be presented to the community as part of the Doerge Race and Gender speaker series. The panel presentation is called “The Black and White of being a black professional in Eastern Iowa.” The free event will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Feb. 27 in the Flaherty Community Room at Mount Mercy University’s Basile Hall, 1330 Elmhurst Drive…