Willette Anita Capers

Willette Anita Capers

Bush Fellowship
24 months

Sioux Falls, SD — Willette Capers was told as a child that she was born to move mountains. That vision stayed with her and inspired her to pursue a career focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. As assistant vice provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Augustana University, she sees how important it is to build social capital for people who have traditionally been excluded from opportunity. She created an award-winning diversity advocate certification program that has had a major impact on the University’s search committee and admissions decisions. She is passionate about helping people find their voice and providing places for them to connect, develop, and grow. She wants to build a sisterhood of support for women of color to help her region become more open and inclusive. To turn her vision into reality, Willette will seek further education and training in intercultural communication, organizational design, and conflict resolution. She will also take personal time to ensure she maintains energy for her movement-building work.


What has informed your approach to leading change in your community? 

Passion! I get paid to do something that helps me learn and create space for other people of color and that excites me because I remember what it felt like when I didn’t have space.

In your words, what makes a great leader or a leader great? 

Someone who is willing to listen and learn. Someone who never stops growing and digging into resources and educating themselves. Times change, so great leaders have to be willing to change with society and the world.

What is your favorite quote or expression? 

“People act according to their understanding,” by Dr. Charles Edward Murray who is the founder of my high school. In my version of this quote I always add: “when you know better, you do better.” 

South Dakota