Inaugural Vice Chancellor of Diversity and Inclusion Marco Barker is looking to make sure everyone who steps foot on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus feels welcomed and accepted.
Barker was hired by UNL to be the Vice Chancellor of Diversity and Inclusion in November 2018. Since his first day on April 1, 2019, he said he has been making connections with people throughout the community and looking for ways to increase inclusive excellence at UNL.
“There are a lot of great things going on at Nebraska that you may not realize if you don’t live in the state,” Barker said. “To do this work at a place that had the opportunity to build something new and to do it at an institution that I believe in its mission, I think was really exciting.”
Barker has many goals for the coming years but said he believes one of the most critical is increasing communication.
“We are trying to update and strengthen our central website,” Barker said. “We want to make sure we can facilitate in a way that’s effective, whether that’s also building a newsletter and being able to share what’s happening around diversity and inclusion.”
Another major goal for Barker is improving coordination.
“This goes back to how we coordinate better on campus to leverage all the work that’s already happening and people are already experiencing,” he said. “It is also building our council of inclusive excellence and diversity, being able to identify partnerships and strategies and building our institutional capacity.”
Additionally, Barker said the untapped potential of the university is what excites him most about his position at UNL, and he believes Nebraska’s population size can be an asset when it comes to its future of diversity and inclusion.
“I think [Nebraska’s small population] means we can connect and get connected in different ways,” he said. “That’s why I am meeting with both people on campus and people in the community, too. There are just so many opportunities for connection.”
Barker’s new team is made up of people who also believe in this mission, he said, including an executive assistant, an assistant vice chancellor for strategic initiatives and two graduate assistants.
Additionally, he has an advisory team called the Diversity Engagement Team comprised of people from across campus, from human resources employees to military and veteran services employees.
“It's an effort to really have a number of different perspectives around the table to help inform me, too, because I want to make sure that we are being thoughtful and mindful about the different ways that people are represented,” Barker said. “They are an advisory group for me and the office.”
Barker said he looks forward to all of the collaborations and partnerships this team will bring.
“What I’m most excited about [for] the team is that it is going to allow me to help work with people across the campus,” he said. “I’m looking forward to what we can uncover that’s already here and also what we end up finding as new opportunities for the university.”
Barker is not the only one looking forward to the connections that this team will bring.
“Being a part of Dr. Barker’s new team and committees has been inspiring,” DaWon Baker, diversity and inclusion director for Nebraska Athletics, said in an email. “It’s given me hope.”
This year, Barker said he wants to ensure that people understand the importance of inclusive excellence and diversity and how they are connected to it. Then, he said, more of it will be able to be implemented in the future.
“I want to make inclusive excellence a part of who we are as a university and part of everyone’s mindset,” Barker said. “How we best communicate, define and build that into people’s experiences so they also better understand it.”
Barker said there are multiple ways that people can get involved with diversity and inclusion on campus, such as the Office of Academic Success and Intercultural Services, the Women’s Center, the Military & Veteran Success Center and the LGBTQA+ Center. The first step, he said, is gaining knowledge.
“The more you know, the more you are able to help people, be thoughtful and think differently,” he said.
Overall, Barker said he wants to make sure everyone who steps foot in the university feels welcome.
“I want people to feel important,” he said. “I recognize that all people are people, and I hope that both the citizens of Nebraska and our campus will be able to instill that in everyone who works here and studies here so that, when they leave, they can take that with them.”