MPA Student Named to Pitman Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion

Joe Warburton leans against a car parked on a street

By Tom McLaughlin

Growing up in Pitman, Joe Warburton says, he noticed what he viewed as a lack of accountability from officials and residents for its acceptance of all people, regardless of race, creed, or color, in his hometown.

“The community has started to change in recent years, but we need to take tremendous strides to be genuinely considered an inclusive place for all residents,” says the master of public administration (MPA) student at Rutgers University–Camden.

As the town does make strides, Warburton will be part of the welcoming committee. He was just selected from more than 50 resident applicants to serve as a member of Pitman’s first task force focusing on diversity and inclusion. It’s a challenge that he’s eager to take on.

“With recent events, I quickly realized that systemic change on the state and federal levels could take an extended period, and likely will require contentious political battles. That’s essential work,” says the 2019 graduate of Rutgers University–Camden with a bachelor’s degree in urban studies. “However, I believe creating change on a local level can be accomplished more quickly if the ideas have support. I wanted to be a part of that conversation.”

The task force, comprised of 13 community members, is entrusted with evaluating and finding ways to promote inclusion and diversity for all residents of the borough. After one year, the group will submit a report on its findings, as well as present its suggestions, to the mayor and the town council.

Warburton helped to organize the “9 Mile March for Black Lives,” which drew thousands as they traveled through Glassboro, Pitman, Washington Township, and Deptford.

“I personally hope to address a handful of issues, including acknowledging our town’s past racist history,” says Warburton, a Pitman High School graduate. “I want to examine diversity and inclusion in our school system’s curriculum, create a proper space where discrimination can be reported and taken seriously, and study general policies and current use of force policies for the borough’s police department.”

Warburton is no stranger to taking the lead on these issues. He recently served as an organizer – along with fellow Pitman resident and task force member Marla Newsom – of the “9 Mile March for Black Lives” on June 7, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. The march drew thousands as they traveled through Glassboro, Pitman, Washington Township, and Deptford, listening to a host of speakers along the way.

“We wanted to show solidarity with the communities affected by these continuous injustices,” he says, adding, “The task force was an opportunity to continue organizing work and address some of the many underlying reasons we were marching for.”

In addition to effecting racial justice in his community, Warburton hopes to continue learning how to use the power of his voice to make a difference. His confidence in doing so, he says, was buoyed during his undergraduate days as a member of the Institute for Leadership and Action at Rutgers–Camden. The experience gave him the opportunity to meet numerous leaders in their respective fields and offered mentorship that helped to guide his academic and career path.

Joe Warburton wearing Rutgers regalia

Warburton served as a senator for the Rutgers–Camden College of Arts and Sciences for the fall 2017 and spring 2018 semesters, representing Rutgers–Camden at University Senate meetings.

Warburton went on to serve as a senator for the Rutgers–Camden College of Arts and Sciences for the fall 2017 and spring 2018 semesters, representing Rutgers–Camden at University Senate meetings.

He is now bolstering his expertise via the Rutgers–Camden MPA with a concentration in community development, a field that is a passion of his and one he hopes to make his life’s work. He also currently volunteers, managing social media and community outreach, for AmeriCorps VISTA – a national service organization – for the Camden Promise Zone initiative.

Warburton has his sights set on graduating in May 2021 and beginning his career working for a state or federal agency focused on community development, housing, or poverty alleviation. No matter the task at hand, he is confident in his abilities to help make change.

“As Rutgers–Camden students and faculty, we all have a powerful voice,” he says. “We should all be using it to the best of our abilities to lift up the most marginalized in our society.”

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