Marquette hires first director of Black student initiatives

May 13, 2021

Samira PayneMILWAUKEE — Marquette University has announced the hiring of Samira M. Payne as the first director of Black student initiatives in the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, reporting to Dr. William Welburn, vice president for inclusive excellence.

The director of Black student initiatives position was the product of negotiations between university leadership and the Black Student Council last summer. Its role was developed in collaboration with the President’s Commission on Racial Equity. The director of Black student initiatives is responsible for tracking progress of initiatives and programs aimed at increasing recruitment and retention of Black students and improving the campus climate.

“In hiring a director of Black student initiatives, we are addressing a need that came directly from engagement with our student body, which makes the possible impact this role can play on campus so exciting,” Welburn said. “I’m thrilled to welcome Samira back to Marquette and to see what she will be able to accomplish in our office. As an alumna, she is familiar with the Black student experience at Marquette and will be able to connect deeply with our students in fostering an inclusive environment in line with the university’s Catholic, Jesuit mission.”

Payne is a 2010 Marquette graduate and returns to Milwaukee after serving as program director for student-athlete transition programs at the University of Notre Dame.

“I am elated to return to a place that created the foundation of my professional life and to contribute to students in this way,” Payne said. “When I arrived at Marquette as a student, I was firmly rooted in my identity as a Black girl from the south side of Chicago. I felt out of place on an elite college campus, unsure of how to navigate the structures of a university, and of how to achieve the outcomes expected of a Marquette University graduate. Overcoming these barriers and finding success at Marquette and throughout my academic journey was largely shaped by the development of relationships, engagement with campus life and resources, and integration of campus and community to bring greater purpose to my work. My hope is to reduce barriers to students' authentic engagement in their Marquette experience and to cultivate an environment where Black students can thrive.”

At Notre Dame, Payne provided oversight to special projects and initiatives related to new student-athlete engagement and support. She led the university’s transition support for incoming varsity student-athletes in a collaborative effort to enhance the student-athletes’ personal, social, emotional, academic, and athletic growth and performance. In this role, she coordinated with numerous offices across campus to coordinate and evaluate resources, develop programming, and refine the student-athlete transition experience to ensure that it reflects best practices in student-athlete transition support.

Payne graduated from Marquette in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in social welfare and justice. She subsequently earned master’s degrees in instructional leadership-policy studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago and nonprofit administration from Notre Dame.

Grounded in Marquette’s Catholic, Jesuit mission and Statement on Human Dignity and Diversity, the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion actively works to promote a more diverse, welcoming, and inclusive campus community. Marquette’s vision is a diverse campus environment in which all community members enjoy mutual respect and are actively engaged in the life of the university; its scholarship, teaching and learning are inclusive and reflective of the needs of our diverse world; and we engage in meaningful relationships with diverse communities beyond our campus boundaries.

About Kevin Conway

Kevin Conway

Kevin is the associate director for university communication in the Office of University Relations. Contact Kevin at (414) 288-4745 or