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Roberta Wilburn

Roberta Wilburn

Associate Dean for Graduate Studies in Education & Diversity Initiatives
Years of Service: 13.5

What has changed since you first started working at Whitworth?

The diversity of faculty, staff and students has changed significantly since I arrived at Whitworth. When I started, I was the only African American faculty member and administrator on campus. Since that time, there has been a significant increase in the number of students of color on campus, and the diversity of faculty and staff has increased as well. I am incredibly pleased to say that I was able to play a significant role in this endeavor in regard to increasing the diversity in Graduate Studies in Education.

What place on campus is particularly special to you? 

The Dixon third floor Graduate Studies in Education reception area, because it is an informal gathering place of faculty and staff. It is a place of camaraderie, support, laughter and fun, as well as hard work. It is a place where we greet students and help them solve problems. It is warm and welcoming, just like home, because of the people who work there.

What is one unexpected thing you've learned during your time at Whitworth?

One person can make a significant difference in another's life through taking time to build heart and soul connections through authentic relationships, no matter how different you think the other person's views and lifestyle may be from your own. I was able to mentor and support a student who considered himself to be a racist and a sexist, on his intercultural journey to becoming a more inclusive and culturally responsive professional. He willingly volunteered to meet with me for a year on a one-on-one basis to discuss issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, because I respected his humanity while challenging his viewpoints and provided him with strategies for his own personal growth and development.

What parting advice would you offer current students and lifelong learners alike?

You cannot separate having a Christ-centered mission from the work of diversity, equity and inclusion. It is the centrality of the work. If you are going to honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity, then you must treat everyone with the love of Christ by respecting diversity, advocating for equity, and embracing inclusion regardless of a person's culture, ethnicity, religion or social identity. You need to be guided like I am by Micah 6:8 –

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

What is one Whitworth experience, value or memory that you'll carry with you into retirement?

I can't narrow it down to one, but I have two significant memories that I will take with me. One is being asked to carry the ceremonial [Quasquicentennial] Pinecone while leading the graduate commencement processional. The other is receiving a beautiful plaque as a retirement gift with a picture of me on campus and with testimonies from past and present faculty and staff about how my work impacted Whitworth and their lives. This is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

What do you look forward to in retirement?

I look forward to having more time to spend with my three grandsons and the rest of my family as well as continuing my life's work and passion of promoting diversity, equity and inclusion through the consulting business, Wilburn & Associates, LLC ,that I have with my husband, James.