Schar School Junior William Barker Empowers LGBTQ+ Students, Advances Diversity at Mason

A young man in a brown shirt with white stripes smiles broadly.
William Barker: ‘Meaningful action through the center's initiatives unites students, faculty, and staff and continues to advance equity for all.’

Earlier this year, it was announced by the Campus Pride Index that George Mason University scored a five-star rating and topped the ranks as the best university in Virginia for LGBTQ+ students, a significant accomplishment that confirms Mason’s status as a safe and welcoming institution of higher learning.

While the general population of the campuses can be credited for this achievement, it’s those behind the scenes that assure the LGBTQ+ community thrives. One of those is Schar School of Policy and Government public administration junior William Barker helps ensure safety and support of students as the student coordinator of the LGBTQ+ Resources Center, an office within University Life.

Before Barker assumed a leadership role, they were beneficiaries of the office.

“Their unwavering support has been instrumental in my growth from my first semester to today,” they said. “Working with the center has empowered me to lead, advocate, and positively impact the queer student community.

“The LGBTQ+ Resources Center is a source of strength and solidarity for many Mason members and provides invaluable resources across campus. Meaningful action through the center's initiatives unites students, faculty, and staff and continues to advance equity for all.”

As the child of a military family, Barker got to know and establish their own definition of diversity. They lived all around the country—from Alaska and Washington state to Georgia and Florida, with a stint in Belgium. After experiencing different cultures, they now see being diverse as being welcoming.

“Diversity is focusing on ensuring those unheard voices are heard and those that are unsupported are supported,” they added.

Throughout their time as a chair of the Queer Student Leadership Council (QSLC), the organization established the Queer Coalition Summit, defining it as their top achievement. In collaboration with other members of the QSLC, they offered students a space to talk about issues on campus. Throughout the last academic year, their team also strengthened relationships with other student organizations and numerous Mason offices to enrich the dialogue about diversity.

In addition to their work with University Life, Barker also got involved with the Schar School’s Undergraduate Research Assistant Program (URAP), which aligns students with professors who teach them research methods for their studies, papers, and books while students often conduct their own original projects. Barker was paired with Associate Professor Mariely López-Santana and Professor Jonathan Gifford.

“It is a great opportunity to apply the knowledge learned in class and explore different fields,” they said. With this in mind, Barker now looks forward to starting a new URAP project in the fall, helping Assistant Professor Lucas Núñez in his research regarding elections with veteran candidates.

In their upcoming junior year, Barker will be a member of International Relations Policy Task Force, one of the four Schar School Learning Communities that bring together students with similar interests. IR Policy Task Force students research policy and share study abroad sessions, including, most recently, a week spent at the Mexican border. The community, led by a Schar School Associate Professor Eric McGlinchey, provides participants with academic credit and welcomes key speakers from the world of international politics.