Professional Development Institute Testimonials

Professional development institute participant testimonials

Lisah Crall, Program Manager, Geological and Environmental Sciences

The days I spent with Dr. Orbe and the members of the Building Cultural Competencies team were the most fundamentally important training that I have received in my professional career. Reaching far beyond typical bias training, this PDI course allowed us to share and affirm each other's personal stories which made me even more open and receptive to learning and participating. The work bridged roles, backgrounds, and experiences and created a safe and open space to share and grow in my knowledge and understanding of myself and those with whom I work and serve.

Lofty Durham, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Theatre, and Chair, College of Fine Arts Diversity and Inclusion Committee

Drs. Orbe and Winfield-Thomas are playing the long game here, planting the seeds of our institution’s transformation in training like this PDI. This is the highest-quality, most practical, and easily actionable training based in concepts of equity, justice, belonging, diversity, and communication that I have ever experienced, and it is clear that the more people take this opportunity to learn together, the closer we get to creating a place where all may truly learn and be valued for who they really are and what they can contribute to our community. If you’re like me, you may have made a personal commitment to acting in more just and equitable ways, but this training shows you how you can share and spread that commitment in the workplace. I cannot recommend enough!

Charles Henderson, Ph.D., Professor of Physics and Director of the Mallinson Institute for Science Education

The Cultural Competencies Professional Development Institute far exceeded my expectations. Dr. Orbe created a welcoming, engaging, and inclusive atmosphere. His ability to facilitate interactions and build a supportive environment allowed participants to take risks and develop new insights about equity and inclusion. In addition to modeling good facilitation skills, Dr. Orbe also gave us insight into his decision-making, which will help me as a teacher and leader. I have attended other trainings with similar goals and this one has had by far the most impact on me and my work at WMU. A further benefit from the Institute is the opportunity to work with and get to know colleagues from throughout the University.  

Warren Hills, Ph.D., WMU Chief Human Resources Officer

My first thought after being a member of the Building Cultural Competencies cohort for 2021 was that we need to make this an opportunity available to all WMU employees.  I was indeed privileged to share the experience with this years’ group and have reflected often on what I learned and how my beliefs and perceptions were challenged.  But in addition to the personal growth, we were also introduced to this collection of activities and exercises that are available for all of us to use in future programs on campus.  I’m confident our group will build upon this experience to affect positive change to our campus community.  Dr. Orbe, thanks so much for this opportunity!

Irma Lopez, Ph.D., Interim Dean, Lee Honors College

The Institute provided a refreshing training in cultural competency in an atmosphere of openness and collegiality. Dr. Mark Orbe made learning fun by providing activities that had specific goals and outcomes which help us to continue self-evaluating and reviewing of our views and attitudes toward people whose culture and worldview is different from those in our inner circle. At the Institute, we used our differences to strengthen our bond as humans and colleagues, and it provided a delightful opportunity to know and interact with colleagues from across campus from different backgrounds. This was enriching on many levels. My participation gave me the opportunity to improve myself and to harness the power of a culturally diverse WMU workforce.

Andrea Mellendorf, WMU Apartment Complex Coordinator, WMU Apartments/Spindler Hall, Residence Life

The Professional Development Institute was an incredible way to connect with colleagues from across campus and unite on the common goal of creating a just and equitable WMU. Dr. Orbe does an excellent job of facilitating discussions and activities that are thought-provoking, challenging, fulfilling, and encouraging. I left the PDI feeling empowered to take the information gained and skills built back to my corner of campus to continue the work. I feel more connected with other units on campus, and so encouraged and empowered after participating in the PDI. I would highly recommend this experience to anyone who wants to further their understanding and commitment to JEDI work. I am confident that continuing this program for years to come will bring welcome, positive change to our campus community!

Ángela Pérez-Villa, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, History

The first evening my PDI cohort met for our opening sessions, Dr. Mark Orbe said we thought we knew why we were there but we really didn’t. He was right! As someone who enjoys and seeks out professional development opportunities, this experience was like no other for its emphasis on building professional intimacy. Each session was carefully developed to spark discussion and creativity while bringing participants closer to each other as colleagues and humans through vulnerability and personal experience. The hands-on nature of the program allowed us to actively learn the material, test the tools provided, and reflect on how we could potentially apply this learning to promote diversity and inclusion. The sense of camaraderie that we created as a group by the end of the Institute was unlike anything I have experienced in a professional training. For all this, the Institute exceeded my expectations and brought back a sense of community I had lost as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m grateful to have participated in what I consider a truly world-class experience at Western Michigan University.   

Maria Roche-Dean, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, School of Nursing

I sought the training on building cultural competency through the Professional Development Institute at WMU because I wanted to explore different ways to broach this topic with students at varying levels in our programs. The conversations may be similar, but the approach and depth may differ based on the audience. This experience exceeded my expectations. My colleagues and I had frank discussions, reflected on our backgrounds, roles, behaviors and began to develop a depth of understanding around cultural competency, and being human. We focused on connection and fostering intellectual and emotional growth. In my perspective, this experience led by Dr. Orbe, fostered community building and offered tools that could be applied in the classroom and in our work. I encourage others seeking ways to understand our world and explore worldviews to participate in the PDI training on Building Cultural Competencies. 

Chris Sligh, Director, Student Engagement

The Professional Development Institute was truly one of the best professional development opportunities in my higher education career. The environment that Dr. Orbe was able to create allowed for meaningful and needed conversation. This was an excellent opportunity to grow by being challenged without feeling called out. The PDI allowed for the empathy, connection, and reflection that is truly needed for real DEI work to move forward. The intentional design of the cohort was successful in that I was afforded the opportunity to network with many of my colleagues in ways that I had not before. This is a great opportunity for people to be actively engaged and look to be a part of the solution. 

Jessica Swartz, Former Deputy General Counsel, Office of Legal Affairs and General Counsel

I am grateful that WMU gave me the opportunity to take over thirty hours away from my professional duties to participate in the PDI. The timing could not have been more perfect because, in addition to all of the turmoil we have been experiencing from a race and gender perspective over the last eighteen months, we were also under the weight of COVID. While I have participated in other diversity, inclusion, and equity training, the great strength of this program was experiencing it with coworkers. Being together with colleagues allowed us to share the difficulties of the past 18 months and get a glimpse into how we experienced the same events very differently. This is the first one of these trainings where I truly felt that the people who needed to be in the room and listening were there. I learned so much about other perspectives of people at the university and in Kalamazoo communities. The way Dr. Orbe designed the program to progressively go emotionally deeper as the days went on made it easy to go fully open up by the last day. I’m glad I took the personal and professional risk of “putting myself out there” for this experience. It was cathartic and made me a better person and colleague.

Kara Wood, Former Associate Vice President for Community Partnerships

An organization is only as good as its culture—and building that culture is every employee’s responsibility. By participating in this institute, you can help make WMU a more supportive and engaging place to work by understanding the perceptual, institutional, and psychological processes, systems and networks that impact the ways people interact with each other and how we can support a more inclusive workplace. It provides an environment that allows you to become aware of cultural differences and allows you to develop new insights about race and equity that you may not have been aware of before. This was an exceptional experience that allowed me to continue my journey personally, and professionally, toward actions and growth that will continue to cultivate an inclusive, diverse workplace and improve the University culture.

Toni Woolfork-Barnes, Ed., Director, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

"Using cultural competency and humility as a foundation for the Professional Development Institute (PDI) was eye opening and from my perspective addresses diversity, equity and inclusion holistically Additionally, having the opportunity to participate as a part of a cohort (with a phenomenal scholar/trainer - Dr. Orbe) and with colleagues from across campus has allowed us to begin contributing to the overall vision of building capacity on campus in ways that will advance the University D, E, I, goals and objectives. This was a valuable opportunity, and I encourage others to participate in future Office of Institutional Equity Cultural Competency Institutes." Thank you for the opportunity.