When Kimberly Weatherly was visiting Swem Library as a Hampton University graduate student, she never imagined she’d be working in higher education one day, let alone at William & Mary.
But a job opportunity that came out of an internship rerouted her career path, and now, after working in multiple roles at four colleges, Weatherly is leading William & Mary’s Center for Student Diversity. On Friday, from noon to 2 p.m., she and her colleagues will host an open house at the center, located in the Campus Center, room 159 (104 Jamestown Rd.).
“I think William & Mary is on the forefront of doing some things with diversity and inclusion,” she said. “No institution is perfect, but I think William & Mary wants to strive to be the best and to be as inclusive as possible.”
Weatherly started as the assistant dean and director of the center on Aug. 14, just nine days before the fall semester began. The native Ohioan and avid fan of international travel and Cleveland sports teams previously served as the director of multicultural affairs and African-American cultural affairs at Columbia College Chicago. Before that, she was the director of student leadership and involvement at Lewis University in Illinois after working as the director of student activities at Hampton University. She was also once an adjunct professor at Benedictine College.
Weatherly graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and marketing. She also holds a master’s in counseling with a concentration in college student development from Hampton University and a doctorate in higher education and organizational change from Benedictine University.
Weatherly was drawn to William & Mary in part by the sense of community on campus, the size of the school and the academically rigorous nature of the institution, she said.
“One thing about William & Mary students, they’re very community service- and social justice-oriented, so I think that was a big attraction to come here, also.”
Weatherly hopes to broaden center’s work to include more programs and support for veterans in addition to Latinx, Asian, African-American, LGBTQ and other students.
“To summarize it, I want to really grow our programs and services for historically under-represented populations and identities,” she said.
To achieve those goals, she is looking to expand traditional efforts, such as cultural heritage month celebrations, and implement creative, nonconventional programming, including a “barbershop” initiative focused on male retention and success. Weatherly is also interested in offering opportunities that are less like programs and more like informal gatherings.
“I believe in meeting students where they are … and creating affinity spaces that are not mandatory,” she said.
“Not everyone is a joiner, not everyone wants to be Greek, not everybody wants to be in an organization, but they may come out to a gathering that’s an affinity space where there’s no president, VP and all this other stuff, but where they can just enjoy comradery with other people of their culture or faith.”
Weatherly also hopes to offer more opportunities for students to meet faculty and staff and is looking to establish collaborative relationships with such units as the Reves Center for International Studies and campus ministry.
She hopes the Center for Student Diversity — with new furniture and fresh paint this semester — will be a place where students and other members of the campus community can make connections with one another.
“I want a noisy hallway, to really have this bustling and have people come in and out,” she said. “I want to make sure the center is a home away from home for students.”
Although her focus is on students from historically under-represented backgrounds and identities, she said that the center is open to all.
“All are welcome to the center, and what I always say is learning is both ways – it’s a pendulum,” Weatherly said. “In order to have diverse conversations, we need diverse people. And diversity doesn’t mean just people of color – that’s culture, that’s identity, that’s race, that’s socio-economic, that’s faith, that’s even students who come from the southern hemisphere, north, west or east coast.”
Diversity work is especially important in today’s atmosphere, said Weatherly.
“The climate after the election changed, and it’s important that we enable students with the tools to help advocate for themselves,” she said.
Although she’s been at the university for less than a month, Weatherly is already making strong connections across campus to work toward that end.“William & Mary is one of the most welcoming atmospheres I’ve ever been in,” she said. “The people are great. The students are smart, and I’m really looking forward to the implementation of programs and services that help facilitate dynamic dialogue.”