By Cecilia Cress and Olivia Montes
A member of the Washington College community since July 2021, Assistant Dean for Student Achievement and Retention Tricia Biles has now added another experience to her resume: overseeing many programs and groups within Intercultural Affairs.
For the past six months, in addition to supporting Director of Student Engagement Antoine Jordan ’12, leading the Office of Student Engagement’s student retention and success program, collaborating with the Provost’s Office on student retention, and supervising the Peer Mentor program, according to previous Elm coverage, Biles chairs the Bias Education Response Team and oversees the Early Intervention Planning Group and the First-Year Explore programs. She also collaborates with the Intercultural Ambassadors to provide resources for the Intercultural Affairs office in Minta Martin.
According to Biles, her goals for the remainder of the 2022 spring semester include gaining the necessary funds to ensure the ICA office remains a safe space for students on campus.
“We have the space, but we want to make sure that we have some appropriate furnishings, and we have a welcoming, inclusive atmosphere there, and have it be a true hub for students to engage,” Biles said.
“It’s just really a matter of seeing them through and getting feedback from the affinity groups that have their offices there.”
For the Bias Education Response Team, Biles said she is currently focusing on the policies pertaining to hate speech at the College, and said she is hoping for more clarifications in policy in the future, especially with the addition of Dr. Alisha Knight as Associate Provost of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
“It’s something that we are hoping to influence more education on what is inclusive speech, what is hate speech, what is protected speech…[and] I do believe that there’s going to be much more collaboration [with] Dr. Knight,” Biles said. “She’s going to also be a very strong partner with intercultural affairs and in managing policy.”
Before coming to WC, Biles was the director of outdoor education and group services with Capital District YMCA in N.Y. While transitioning out of that position, she met with Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Dr. Sarah Feyerherm and became interested in Peer Mentor leadership development at WC.
Biles said her main focus across all her duties at WC centers around the desire to foster “joyful student engagement and strong interpersonal relationships” throughout campus.
“Student engagement is a priority of WC,” Biles said. “Making sure that students are continuing to be heard, seen and acknowledged on campus…Students need to know that professionals here at the College are hearing their concerns and they’re addressing their concerns.”
Biles said she also hopes to continue working closely with students individually as well as within groups and clubs to address their concerns and continue to improve their experiences within the WC community.
“Student voice is very important,” Biles said. “The more students are speaking up about their needs, the more we can respond to those needs, and they need to go through the proper channels.”
“I do think there is a need to bring positive energy to WC, and I like to find the avenues to provide that positivity,” Biles said. “We have this great opportunity with Dr. Knight’s position coming in and at the same time [we’re] hiring a new director for intercultural affairs. Those are steps in the right direction and they offer a sense of renewal and hope, and I’m pleased to be a part of that.”
Photo by Olivia Dorsey
Featured Photo Caption: For the past six months, Washington College Assistant Dean for Student Achievement and Retention Tricia Biles has acquired further responsibilities on campus, including overseeing the Office of Intercultural Affairs at Minta Martin.