Ask an Expert: Diversity and Inclusion
Talking Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion with Dr. Marco Barker
by Nicole Tyler (’18)
Tell us who you are and what you do for Westminster?
I am the am the associate vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion; and chief diversity officer for Westminster. I am a part of the college's Senior Team, which is a bit different from individuals who have had held past versions of this role. As part of the Senior Team and chief diversity officer, I have the overall responsibility of helping the institution think about how we go about making our environment more diverse and inclusive in a way that’s organized, comprehensive, and strategic. To accomplish this, I tend to focus on three critical areas: programs, community relations, and strategic planning. The planning can range from traditional strategic planning to working with offices and organizations to help them in how they’re going to be strategic. It’s not always me leading it; I often see myself as a facilitator.
Within your title, you have three parts: diversity, equity, and inclusion. What do those words mean and why are they important?
Those three pieces must work together. People must understand all of them to know what we are striving for.
Diversity, in a broad sense, represents differences and diverse perspectives and experiences, and they can be different or intersectional. For Westminster, it’s about how do we have a diversity of people and perspectives, and how do our curriculum, classrooms, and co-curricular experiences allow for different people to have different voices?
The equity piece, which sometimes can be the most challenging, is about identifying where there are inequities and developing strategies to address them. We try to find differences in access or participation; or in some cases, reward and outcome and when there’s not the same parody across those.
Inclusion, for me, is sometimes the most exciting aspect of my role because it’s about how we get people actively engaged in incorporating the diversity and equity pieces. For Westminster, that often looks like thinking about our policies, procedures, and practices and ensuring they include a diverse perspective and foster equity.
The world is so different, and higher education has such a critical role in shaping the future of society. Certainly, when we think of future leaders, higher education is critical in facilitating this process and fostering a new wave of thinkers. Diversity is a powerful component to that because it allows our students to be exposed to these ideas and concepts and serve as the middle ground for preparing these individuals and contributing knowledge.
What are the biggest benefits of having a diverse campus?
Particularly at Westminster, one benefit is being able to have an overall enriching experience. College is a time that people are growing and learning, those experiences are even more enriched when exposed to different viewpoints and ways of thinking about the world. Another benefit is that diversity and inclusion create an opportunity for individuals to expand their knowledge in ways individuals may have not been able to prior to their experience at Westminster. There are educational benefits as well: People are often more critical, better learners, and better leaders. Lastly, in creating an overall inclusive environment for people to live and learn, having diversity and inclusion embedded in an organization may prevent instances of people being unable to work across differences.
What efforts are being made on our campus to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion?
From a grassroots perspective, our students and faculty have been super involved. Programmatically, we have things like the Vagina Monologues production, or the Diversity and Equity Symposium. We have a new Diversity Engagement Team composed of leaders and decision makers across campus. Diversity is all of our work—we all have a higher imperative to do it. The Student Diversity and Inclusion Center has been extremely productive and has put on programs that campus hasn’t seen before, which has been a welcomed change. Our campus is now experiencing a connection to people who are passionate and already doing the work by providing a platform for that work to be done in a more coordinated way. At the same time, we are able to challenge and engage our leaders on campus to see the importance in their work.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to get involved?
Find where your talents can most be leveraged and direct your energy there, knowing you can impact that one thing. It’s a matter of identifying your strengths and convictions, and making the commitment.
Any final thoughts?
My message to our alumni community is an emphasis on how dynamic our world is becoming and that diversity will have to be a critical piece to how we engage individuals and run our organizations. To be the most responsible, innovative, creative, and ahead-of-the-curve, diversity and inclusion must be part the practice. Westminster is striving to be ahead of the curve. I hope alums are supportive and engage us in that effort because our campus is ready for it.
About the Westminster Review
The Westminster Review is Westminster College’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.