PSD Spotlight: Brent Barker

August 5, 2020

August 2020

PSD’s August spotlight is Brent Barker, PhD, Teaching Support Manager, Astronomy & Astrophysics and Geophysical Sciences. Brent (they, theirs) has been with UChicago for two years.

Brent was nominated for the “EDI Champion Award.” This award recognizes a staff member who acts as a true diversity and inclusion ally and proponent. This individual is a local diversity and inclusion leader who takes action and shows initiative in promoting diversity and inclusion in their unit. 

A member of the PSD community had this to say: “Brent is very inclusive in their approach to just about everything. Prior to there being an established and chartered EDI Committee, Brent took initiative to lead an EDI working group which was instrumental in making relevant recommendations, such as launching a focus group to get a true sense of the issues that staff face. 

Brent has a substantial understanding of LGBTQ+ matters and realities. They are diligent in offering tips, insight, and feedback to others in a tactful way regarding how to alter behavior in an effort to avoid offending LGBTQ+ community members and others unwittingly. They are an active member of the EDI Staff Committee and contribute sensible and sensitive recommendations which strengthens our approach to EDI work and the manner in which we deliver programs. Brent has an organic understanding of the value of EDI.”

We interviewed Brent about their interests and experiences below.

Brent Barker in a Hawaiian shirt in front of a door.

Where are you from?

I grew up in Homer City, Pennsylvania, a small town of 2,000 people in rural Western Pennsylvania.

What do you enjoy about being a part of the PSD community?

I get to work with a lot of different people, and it feels easy to work with them. I generally feel supported in my work and as a person, and I get to be myself.

Tell us a bit about you. 

I have three wonderful partners, and I live in an apartment with four of my chosen family, including a border collie mix named Tina. I help organize the Chicago Nonviolent Communication community, am currently working on my Master's in mental health counseling, and have interests in boardgames, role playing games, science fiction, and liberation of all kinds.

Who inspires you?

Mr. Rogers inspires me to be loving, gentle, kind, and humble. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez inspires me to be fearless in speaking truth to power.

What is the most interesting thing that you are working on right now?

I'm helping my department craft a code of conduct, and it's so interesting figuring out how to develop a set of norms, and a document, that affirms what matters most to us and works to create more justice in the world. Hopefully we are discerning a way that unites in our diversity.

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?

Systems should work for everyone, not just for a few. Creating inclusion and diversity means dismantling systems that create barriers for participation — and working with diverse stakeholders to create new systems that work for everyone.

What three words best describe you?

Compassionate, precise, and hopeful.

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