An interview with Dr. William Welburn
By Saul Lopez, graduate assistant in the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion
Last month I sat down with William Welburn, vice president for inclusive excellence for Marquette University’s Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, to talk about how the office is adapting to the current situation.
Dr. Welburn leads the university’s diversity and inclusion initiatives by working closely with fellow leaders on campus – including faculty, staff and student communities – to better support people of color on campus and create an inclusive climate.
In this interview, Dr. Welburn explains how the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion has adapted to a remote work environment and offers students advice in navigating online courses.
It was an absolute pleasure to sit down with Dr. Welburn and learn more about what the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion is doing to help students, faculty and staff during these trying times.
View the full interview:
Q: What are the current goals of the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion?
A: We engage the diversity of our students, faculty and staff. We engage it, welcome it, find ways to support it, find ways to enable people to reach their aspirations and goals in our community, that community being Marquette. We want to see all the communities engage in an intercultural way. That’s how one achieves inclusive excellence.
Q: How is the office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion supporting underrepresented students, faculty, and staff?
A: In my view, what we can do best, is create opportunities for interconnections between (communities) – what we see ourselves doing is working with our partners throughout campus to create programs, projects and initiatives that bring communities together toward a common purpose.
Probably the best illustration of that is our initiative to become a Hispanic Serving Institution. I believe that we have significant support from many places across the campus, certainly within the faculty community and among staff. We try to help engage people and support them with resources. Two good examples of that are 1) to create more translations of Marquette websites into Spanish, under Jacki Black’s leadership and 2) working with the Languages, Literatures, and Cultures program on a (Spanish for) heritage speaker initiative.
Q: How are you still fostering a “culture of inclusion” given the current circumstances?
A: Under the current circumstances, we want to keep things moving. We don’t want things to go dormant and we don’t want the light to go dark on us. We have to keep moving, and there are two dimensions to that: what we do now and what we do down the line (i.e. planning for next year and beyond next year).
I think we have gained a lot of ground – it’s a very different institution around diversity, equity and inclusion than the university I joined 10 years ago. And I would hate to see us lose any momentum. We have this very serious wakeup call about what inequality really does look like now.
We also know the circumstances in which students are attempting to study and complete the semester – these circumstances are very different depending or where they go “home” to. Because not everyone has had the privilege of going “home.”
Q: How do you keep employees/team members motivated and engaged?
A: Checking in frequently but also giving people space to do their work. We have some extraordinary, self-directed people in the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion. Excluding programming, we are as productive now as we ever were. And that’s a testament to the autonomy in which everyone is able to work together and get things done.”
Q: What current efforts are being made to ensure diverse students are still being enrolled for next year?
A: From my standpoint, so much of this is about supporting the work of the Office of Admissions, the Office of Financial Aid, the Educational Opportunity Program, and Student Affairs (especially as they try to figure out what the RISE program is going to look like).
We try to support these offices in 1) bringing new students to campus and 2) making sure students return. If students don’t know where to go, they can always come to us. If they are not sure who to ask, we’ll get them help.
Q: Are there any resources you recommend students visit during this time?
A: I strongly recommend that students stay engaged with the university and watch for updates. This is a time to be tuned in – you want to be in the know. If you see something important coming from the university, make sure your friends see it. Use the Marquette website to make sure you are informed about the key things that are going on.
Q: Is there anything you would like to say to all of our underrepresented students at this time?
A: Be well and stay safe, first and foremost. Take care of others, especially family. Stay close to your academics. I know this is hard. Reach out for help when you need it. I look forward to seeing you all soon.
I would like to thank Dr. Welburn for his time. One of the resources he mentioned was “Surviving the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Resource Guide for Students.” In this guide, you’ll find a compilation of campus and local resources for our Marquette students.