10 Questions with Marjorie Trueblood
September 15, 2022
By Stephanie Rizzo ’09
Rollins’ new dean of the Student Center for Inclusion & Belonging shares her vision for making Rollins a more inclusive and equitable institution.
As the past few years have seen more emphasis placed on issues surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), Rollins has joined the conversation in full force. The College recently embraced some big changes when it announced the department formerly known as the Center for Inclusion & Campus Involvement would be split into two brand-new departments to better serve the needs of all Tars by providing focused, personalized support in the areas of diversity and involvement.
This fall, Rollins debuted the all-new Center for Campus Involvement, which will oversee student organizations, student government, and special events and traditions. Meanwhile, the new Student Center for Inclusion & Belonging will provide key support for all students, with a focus on those whose identities fall into marginalized categories. This new department will spearhead initiatives related to DEI, including training and professional development opportunities for students, faculty, and staff and leadership opportunities for students.
Heading up the new Student Center for Inclusion & Belonging is Marjorie Trueblood, an educator and advocate with a passion for helping students navigate the challenges of fitting in at college.
“Marjorie is a respected leader in this area of higher education,” says Vice President for Student Affairs Donna Lee. “She is joining Rollins in this inaugural role at a critical time as the College continues its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. She understands deeply the unique challenges and opportunities ahead of us and looks forward to offering creative leadership as we move Rollins forward.”
We recently sat down with Trueblood to learn more about her experience, her plans for Rollins, and the mission behind the new center.
What kind of experience in diversity, equity, and inclusion are you bringing to Rollins? “I’m coming to Rollins from Macalester College, a liberal arts college in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I was dean of multicultural life. Before that, I was at Southern Oregon University. Throughout my career, I’ve worked with students and the community to figure out ways to push for positive change regarding social justice on and off campus. I’ve especially focused on diversity, equality, and inclusion and Title IX initiatives.”
What was the thinking behind the decision to reimagine a new Center for Inclusion & Belonging? “I think it gives us an opportunity to elevate the work and prioritize inclusion, belonging, diversity, and equity in new and exciting ways. Through this new iteration of a standalone center, we’ll get to hone in on the experiences of our underrepresented students. We’ll be able to think about what we’re currently providing them and focus on more intentional ways of supporting them.”
You point out that this new role was created specifically to support the all-new Center for Inclusion & Belonging. Can you explain the vision behind the position? “Even though this is an inaugural role, Rollins’ commitment to DEI is not new. I want to acknowledge that there’s been a lot of incredible work and student support happening through many outlets, organizations, and departments. This new position builds on that existing support. We’re considering ways to center underrepresented students by affirming their gifts and strengths. We’re also thinking about ways the College can prepare for a new demographic of students coming our way. And so I see it as supporting our students and helping to round out their educational experience here at Rollins. We’ll support those who are underrepresented, but we’ll also work with all students, staff, and faculty to increase our cultural humility across our entire community.”
How do you envision your office partnering with other key campus departments? “Even though the Center for Inclusion & Belonging and the Center for Campus Involvement have split into two different entities, we’ll continue to work closely with student organizations and other institutions that fall under the category of student involvement. I’m personally excited to partner with the Office of Residential Life & Explorations to provide support in our Living Learning Communities. There are a lot of changes happening at the institutional level too. I’m open to working with anyone who wants to join in and help shift the culture.”
How will the new Center for Inclusion & Belonging work to implement DEI at the highest level? “Rollins is currently building a campus-wide strategic plan related to DEI, and I think that’s a good start toward asserting our commitment to diversity as an institution. But to move forward, we must first acknowledge that building and implementing a plan is a messy process. We’re tearing down structures that have been in place for a long time and replacing them with something better, something more equitable and inclusive. It’s not as easy as ‘here are three things we can do to achieve inclusion.’ We need to consider our relationships and the needs of our community. It takes work. The new center will partner with faculty, staff, and administration to engage in that work at the highest level.”
How will the center serve students on a more individual level? “Students are the best part of this type of work in that they are crucial to thinking about what sorts of changes need to happen and how to implement those changes. The lived experience of our students is our most important form of feedback. Our director, Samantha Vega, and Ashley Samson, our graduate assistant, are pulling together a brand-new cultural organization board, which will help us identify the needs of certain populations within our student body. In the past, I’ve hosted monthly dinners with students from underrepresented backgrounds, and I’m also a longtime supporter of student talent. I love showing up to theatrical performances, athletics competitions, and talent shows, and Rollins has a lot of awesome traditions that will make it easy to get out and meet people. Attending student-forward events is a great way to meet students in their element and initiate conversation.”
What are some unique challenges facing marginalized students at Rollins? “Most institutions of higher education were not developed with the intention of serving marginalized students, so there tends to be gaps in the experience. By nature, higher ed is full of implicit biases, and we’re just now coming to terms with that and figuring out ways to improve the experience for millions of people. Several pieces of legislation have recently passed at the state level with the potential to impact our more vulnerable students. Because of that, our students will need intentional, safe spaces to process how these policies could affect their lives. More than that, we’ll need time and space to figure out how to push for change. So often, these things are framed as political and not personal, but the personal is political. You can’t extricate the two.”
Beyond the existing challenges, what excites you about Rollins? “I’m excited that so many people in our community are already doing the work, and people seem energized by it. I made several trips to campus before accepting my position, and I found each of those visits to be highly relational—people want to build relationships with each other and are supportive and caring when doing so. Rollins may be an institution of higher learning, but it’s also a strong community, which I’m looking forward to joining.”
Rollins places a major emphasis on global citizenship. How does that tie into the principles of DEI? “Global citizenship is a natural bridge. The principles of social justice can be applied to any culture, and it’s especially useful when considering the complicated history and some of the more pressing contemporary social issues we face here in the United States. How do we contextually fit into a global history? How do global power dynamics play into our domestic ones? There’s also an aspect of learning about the experiences of others and then figuring out ways to communicate with folks across cultural differences. That type of communication can help build relationships and be a valuable tool for driving positive change.”
What are your tips for students looking to find a sense of belonging at Rollins? “I would say, first and foremost, identify your echo chamber and then make an effort to branch out beyond it. Be curious and slow to judge. If someone says something that challenges you, ask deeper questions to try to understand why. Inquiry is a fantastic tool for achieving a greater understanding of others, and it’s often through deeper inquiry that people are able to find a common ground. You may not be able to make grand, sweeping changes right out of the gate. But you can do a lot within your own sphere. And the wider your sphere, the bigger your impact. All of us have the propensity to effect change simply by listening, building relationships, and working with others for our collective liberation.”
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