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Chief diversity officer leaves college, lasting legacy

Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Marco Barker presents Associate Professor of communication Tamara Stevenson with her Unsung Hero award at Westminster College’s annual Unity Luncheon. Dr. Barker will be leaving Westminster on Feb. 28, leaving a lasting legacy as the college’s first associate vice president for diversity. (Photo by Emily Van Alstyne)

Westminster College’s first Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Marco Barker is leaving the school after a little over two years. Barker is set to fill the vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion position at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His last day on campus will be Feb. 28.

Barker became the first chief diversity officer at Westminster in 2016. While he was the first of his role, Barker had said there were other similar positions for him to follow.

Even with a legacy to follow, Barker said he had to learn how to navigate his new role. Since Westminster had gone so long without an administrative position dedicated to diversity, Barker said there was a desire across campus to see things happen very quickly.

“Being the first, [I] was letting myself be patient and helping the campus be patient with me in the process,” Barker said.

He said that one of the challenges was figuring out how the new office would fit within the current campus culture.

“I wanted to be sure I was reflective of the Westminster culture in a way that I could appreciate what is special about it but also find ways to challenge it,” Barker said. “It’s important for our growth to challenge each other and challenge the culture.”

President Beth Dobkin and Director of Student Diversity Daniel Cairo said they enjoyed their time working with Barker.

“He’s an expert in the field, he’s articulate, he provides meaningful and insightful contributions in meetings and he has moved the campus forward in impressive ways,” Dobkin said.

Cairo said working with Barker has been wonderful and having a partner in a similar diversity leadership role with the same goals is important.

According to Cairo, “he elevated the work of diversity,” to be visible on a college-wide level.

“We’re going to miss him,” Cairo said. “He did a lot to help us with the bias response team, to get the diversity strategic plan going. I’m going to miss him both as a colleague and a friend.”

Barker said his favorite accomplishment was his first project at Westminster, which was the establishment of the diversity statement.

“It was something that, again, others before me had sort of laid the groundwork, but it had not quite become a campus priority or a focus of the campus,” Barker said.

Even with all that has been done on campus, he said there is a lot more that can continue to be done after he is gone.

“We have, as a college, a great foundation,” Barker said. “I think we are at a place of, now putting into action the components of our [diversity] statement and our commitment across the entire college.”

Barker said he would like for employees and students to go beyond the diversity emphasis in the W-Core and engage in more diverse experiences.

“It is important for people to be open and have experiences that challenge them to think,” Barker said.

In an email sent to faculty, President Dobkin said Westminster will continue the momentum they have found under Barker in building a more inclusive community as they search for a new Chief Diversity Officer.

Dobkin and Cairo agree that there is more work to be done on campus, and said they plan to continue Barker’s legacy.

“[Barker] was strategic enough to make sure diversity, equity and inclusion was a campus-wide effort,” Cairo said. “ So he is leaving, but the work will still continue.”

Dobkin said she hopes to find an interim chief diversity officer before Barker leaves. Barker said he is also willing and wanting to help the new diversity officer get transitioned into the position smoothly.

“I think Westminster is such an amazing place to work and study,” Barker said. “In regards to diversity, we still have some work to do around communicating our commitment as a college, and to make sure we have the structures that reflect our commitment.”

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Alexandra Dunn
Alexandra is a senior communication major with a minor in film studies, who in her spare time will adventure off to the mountains with her two dogs. Alex enjoys photography and TV shows like “Game of Thrones” and “Outlander.” No matter what project Alex encounters, she will overcome any obstacle to get it done.

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