In the past year when a pandemic has driven many into isolation, Darianne Maclin knew it was necessary to go the extra step in reaching out to students.
Maclin has been the director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at William Woods University since 2018. She presented the program for the Fulton Rotary Club's virtual noon meeting last Wednesday.
"Right now, it's hard to be up for that challenge (with students) without thinking of COVID," said Maclin, who graduated from William Woods in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in social work. "You have to be able to connect with them (virtually) on intimate topics without being there with them. I find myself wandering away from the office, while keeping my (social) distance, to see (and hear) students."
In her position at William Woods, Maclin is responsible for supporting university students through an assortment of initiatives that include coordinating, implementing and promoting all-inclusive cultural programming. Her office helps to foster an understanding and appreciation for racial, ethnic, gender, age and other cultural differences.
Maclin also provides culturally correct, informative presentations that encourage discussions on current cultural issues and events. She also schedules relevant cultural film series and offers professional development workshops and training to faculty, staff and students to increase cultural awareness.
"We deal with a lot of student issues in feeling at home on campus and getting acclimated with the community," Maclin said. "We try to be really careful in making sure we're asking what they need, instead of assuming from our own lens.
"One thing we try to take into account with the students is their race, gender and sexuality. We want to think about how we can show more physical representation in our programming. Students love to walk around and point out, 'You need to change this, you need to change that.' It's great for them to be heard."
Maclin was asked by one Rotary member how the local organization can become more diverse since its only Black member recently passed away.
"By no means am I an expert," she said. "There's no perfect answer — it really does vary. You want to make sure that the environment is welcoming and that their (members') culture is valued."
Maclin also took a question as to how Fulton can be more accessible to diverse students.
"It's super important that when you decide to be an active advocate and ally, what support can you help them with," she said. "That requires a lot of listening and a lot of self-reflection."