Young Alumna of the Year Award

KnowlesDr. Shirley J. Knowles, Comm ’07
Tampa, Fla.

As the chief inclusion and diversity officer for Progress, a software company, Dr. Shirley Knowles appreciates hearing from people who have perspectives and beliefs that are different from her own. Using the idea of cura personalis, caring for the whole person, Shirley spends time intentionally listening: “I appreciate someone taking a chance and trusting me with their vulnerability.”

Shirley consistently chooses to Be The Difference in many aspects of her life. She has experienced being one of a few people who look and think like her in various situations. As one of the youngest voices in the room to make leadership decisions. As a Black woman working in technology. She uses her experiences to help people relate with her before she asks them to think about the ways they see the world and the people they connect with.

She prioritizes service to others by mentoring college students and colleagues. Her strong faith helps her face challenges and unknown outcomes. For Shirley, leadership and excellence go hand-in-hand. She feels that being excellent and having a purpose that’s grounded in bettering yourself and others truly makes someone a leader.

When Shirley arrived at Marquette from Tampa, Florida, for a campus visit in 2002, she wasn’t sure where she would be attending college. She vividly recalls the calmness that fell over her while walking down Wisconsin Avenue and knew that her choice was made. While it wasn’t easy for her to transition from Florida to Wisconsin, she made lifelong friends, received an outstanding education, and made unforgettable memories as a sports photographer for the Marquette Tribune.

Fun Facts:

Name a Marquette faculty or staff member who had an impact on you, and how.
1) Dean Bill Elliott: Without him investing in me and my future, I would not have been at Marquette.
2) Rose Richard: As my academic advisor (and, at some points, my on-campus life coach), Rose knew how to have the real conversations with me about school and life. She was a staunch supporter of my dreams to be a sports photographer. Additionally, she advocated for me to apply to the Poynter Institute for the esteemed post-college summer internship. She was my rock on campus, and I am so grateful for her.

What is one of your favorite Marquette memories?
Working late nights in the Johnston Hall basement, uploading my sports photos from the MU basketball game I just shot, and helping to get the Marquette Tribune ready for print. I loved taking sports photos at all the games, but I most loved MU men's basketball games.

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