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Roberta Wilburn Named Interim Chief Diversity Officer at Whitworth University

June 15, 2021

Whitworth is pleased to announce Roberta Wilburn, Ed.D., Th.D., associate dean and professor emerita of graduate studies in education, will be the university’s interim chief diversity officer beginning Aug. 1. 

Wilburn has served Whitworth as an administrator and professor for nearly 14 years. She retired in December as the university’s associate dean for graduate studies in education & diversity initiatives. Besides her many career achievements at the university, Wilburn has been at the forefront of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in the Spokane community.

She has conducted numerous workshops and professional presentations locally, nationally and internationally. She has trained more than 1,000 counselors, teachers, government workers and social service personnel for Spokane County, the city of Spokane, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and other agencies on cultural responsiveness and sensitivity practices in the workplace. 

Wilburn previously served on Spokane Mayor David Condon’s advisory council on multicultural affairs. She was also appointed by the mayor to serve as a board member of the Spokane Sister City Association. In 2014, she was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee to the Washington State Charter School Commission. 

“I am extremely pleased that Dr. Roberta Wilburn has accepted my invitation to serve as Whitworth’s interim chief diversity officer,” Interim President Scott McQuilkin says. “Dr. Wilburn is known and respected within the university and broader Inland Northwest communities. I am confident she will lead and advance our work on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives just as she served Whitworth as a professor and associate dean – with expertise, dedication and conviction. The university and its people were immensely blessed by her campus presence and contributions for more than a decade. I am happy to report that Dr. Wilburn’s Whitworth tenure has been extended.” 

Wilburn’s other achievements include:

Awarded the national INSIGHT Into Diversity Giving Back Award for administrators in 2017.

Awarded the YWCA Women of Achievement Carl Maxey Racial and Social Justice Award in 2016.

Appointed to the National Advisory Council for the National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in Higher Education in 2019. 

First woman to be elected president of the Spokane Ministers’ Fellowship, an organization predominantly made up of African American clergy but open to all ministers. 

Internationally, she was invited twice to present at the Oxford Round Table at Oxford University in England, where she spoke about issues related to African American women. She also received an international development grant that focused on women’s empowerment in five Black Mexican villages in the Costa Chica region of Mexico and a second grant in conjunction with a university in the Dominican Republic dealing with African-Latino Studies and Teacher Education.

“I count it a privilege to be offered the opportunity to serve as a part of Interim President Scott McQuilkin’s cabinet as the interim chief diversity officer and associate vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Whitworth University,” says Wilburn, interim chief diversity officer.  “I am committed to leading with integrity the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); disrupting racism; and strengthening genuine allyship by teaching and encouraging others to enhance their intercultural skills and build authentic relationships with individuals from diverse backgrounds to promote cross-cultural understanding. There is no greater honor than for me to take up this mantle of leadership at Whitworth University where I have invested the last 14 years of my professional life advocating for diversity. I hope to continue to build on the excellent DEI work that has already been established so that our faculty, staff, and students can excel in a diverse and inclusive world. I look forward to helping Whitworth to move to its next level of diversity, equity, and inclusion.   

A national search for a permanent chief diversity officer will be launched this fall. 

About Whitworth University:

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church. The university, which has an enrollment of more than 3,000 students, offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Trisha Coder, media relations manager, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or