Getting to know Samira Payne, director of Black student initiatives

Marquette alumna has no plans to sit still

As Marquette’s first director of Black student initiatives, Samira Payne has a notable challenge in front of her as she breaks ground and paves a new path for an improved Black student experience on campus. Fittingly, she’s never shied from a good challenge. After all, Samira is a marathoner and has been a foster parent to nine children.

Samira recently took some time away from shaping her new role to talk with Marquette Today about her family, fostering and a lofty goal she’s set for her restless feet.

Hometown: Chicago

Family: Darius (son, 15) and Charlotte (mom)

Hobbies and interests: Crocheting, knitting, audiobooks, gardening, hiking and running

I’ve finished two marathons and 20 half-marathons, and I have a goal to finish a half-marathon in every U.S. state, plus D.C. I’ve completed 10 of the 51 so far.

Favorite movies: Brown Sugar, Love and Basketball, and Hamilton

Heroes: Last year I became a foster parent, and I have had nine young people in my home for short- and long-term placements. These kids are my heroes. They have offered me significant perspective, challenged me to learn new strategies to meet their needs and greatly impacted my life.

Favorite quotes/mottos: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” —Mother Teresa

“Bloom where you are planted.”

Currently reading: Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford

Favorite vacation spots: San Francisco, Colorado and New Zealand

Biggest career learning experience: Don’t let a fear of failure drive your decision making. Though it is easy to say yes to the things you know you can do well, make sure to say yes to some things that scare you, push you out of your comfort zone, and demand something different from you.

Fun facts:

  • We have two cats (Eliza and Angelica, 2) and a dog (Skylr, 3).
  • I only drink iced coffee, year-round.
  • As a Marquette undergrad, I worked as a Special Projects Coordinator in the Service-Learning Office and drove for LIMO.