This year, UMass Boston hired a new Assistant Dean of Students, Chiquita Baylor. The Mass Media conducted an interview with Baylor regarding her new position.
Question: How would you describe your role as Assistant Dean of Students?
Chiquita Baylor: So, I think I would describe my role almost kind of more [like] who I am as a professional, because I think that this role definitely suits me and where I am in my career, but also who I am as a professional, meaning that I see myself as an advocate for students first and foremost—when you're Assistant Dean of students, you are for the students. So, I see myself as a student-centered professional, and all the things that I do as a professional are for the benefit of the student population. I would also see my role as [that of] a supervisor, so supervising the New Student and Family Orientation Program, as well as the Student Activities and Leadership Office. That was one of the big things that really attracted me to this position; [it] was to be able to elevate myself as a professional, but also still continue to work in two areas that I felt to be a passion of mine throughout my career.
Q: So, you served as Associate Dean of Students at Salve Regina University before this, right?
Q: What drew you to UMass Boston as a university?
CB: So the big thing that drew me to campus was that I loved my experience at Salve [Regina University]. I think it elevated me, it made me ready for the next position, which is the Assistant Dean of Students position, but I was really ready to work with a diverse student population. At Salve, it is an extremely, predominantly white institution [. . .] Folks who go there, they will tell you the same. To be able to work with a more diverse student population—a population that comes from every walk of life—was something that was very intriguing to me.
Another big thing that really drew me to campus was the mission here. I had never seen a mission statement that talks about being a non-racist, health promoting institution. In being at Salve, we talk about those things, and we're a really strong mission driven institution as well, and so I knew that I wanted to work for another school that had a strong mission, and one that spoke to being student centered, and being about the students. So, when I saw those keywords, I was like, 'yes, this makes sense for me.' This makes sense for the next step in my career, but it also will still allow me to work in areas that I have been passionate about working in. I started in orientation when I was an undergrad—I was an orientation leader myself—and so that has been a part of my career since day one. I think it's what got me into this field, and to be able to continue to work in it throughout my career, [to] see how orientation has developed since I was an orientation leader, to [see] now the new things of bringing in technology and social media into orientation, it has completely changed the scope, as well as working with families, and adding that into the mix of New Student Orientation. So I think it continues in that line of passion for me to be able to be at UMass Boston and doing New Student and Family Orientation, as well as working in Student Activities.
Q: What are some of the projects or tasks that you are most excited to accomplish as Assistant Dean of Students at UMass Boston?
CB: So, that's really hard to say right now, because I'm still learning everything. So, any project or anything is giving me a new understanding of the student culture at UMass Boston—it is giving me a perspective of how the UMass system works—so I'm excited for anything that is happening. But, like I said, I am really excited to continue to still stay in orientation and in student activities work, because that is where the majority of my experience has been throughout my career. So, specific projects? [I’m] not sure because I'm still learning, but to still be able to work in those functional areas is definitely key for me, and to continue to still work with students. I know that being in Student Affairs is the place for me—it has been for over 15 years now—and I continue to still find passion and drive in working with students and want to continue to do that.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you anticipate handling this semester?
CB: I think my biggest challenge is learning. Learning, because the system is so massive. Coming from such a smaller institution, where you can pick up all the elements and pieces so quickly, this is such a massive system. So, my biggest challenge is gonna be learning all [about] who is who, who does what, and how do I best advocate for students through that system. And so, when I think about a challenge, it intrigues me. I'm so super excited for the challenge of just learning, and within my month or so of being at UMass Boston, I've learned so much about unions and the students that make up UMass Boston, and so I feel like—I shouldn't say a nerd, but I really am one—a nerd to say that I am so super excited about the learning that I'm gonna be doing within the next year or so.
Q: What are some improvements you believe can be made at UMass Boston?
CB: I don't know. Again, that's really a hard question to answer right now, because I'm so new. I mean, you're talking to me [and] I'm just a month old, and I'm still in the 90 days of learning what the system is, what the two offices provide, and what actually a Dean of Students really [does] at UMass Boston.
So, I'm still in that learning part that I'm not sure what improvements I can make. But, just looking at it, [ . . .] I'm here to listen to the students, and so if there are specific things that the students feel need to be changed, I encourage them to come in, sit down, and talk with me, and we can come up with a solution of how to change them or to talk through processes of why some things may be in place. So, I would encourage students to come in, sit down, and have conversations with me. So you can inform me of what are some of the major improvements that you would like to see within Student Affairs and UMass Boston, and we can talk about how my position can help advocate for some of those changes and improvements.
Q: What is one thing you'd like the students at UMass Boston to know about you?
CB: So one big thing is I feel like my motto is: 'I work hard, I laugh harder.' And so, if ever students see me around campus, come laugh with me, joke with me, have fun with me, because I'm an easy-going person. I'm a big student advocate, as I said before, so please come in, talk with me, let's talk about the challenges that you are experiencing at UMass Boston. I have an open door policy, so come right on in, even if you just need someone to talk to on that day. We can talk about Drake versus Kanye if that's what you're in the mood to talk about, or we can just have a conversation about life. I am so interested in learning more about people and the students of UMass Boston, so come in, have conversations with me, introduce yourself to me, so that I know who you are and we can start building a relationship for ways to better improve Student Affairs, as well as the student experience at UMass Boston.
Q: Is there anything that I missed that you wanted to add?
CB: I would add that I am very passionate about access to higher education for all students, specifically underrepresented and marginalized populations of students. That is a strong area of passion of mine and however I can assist students in accessing higher education—if that means talking on panels or if you need a person to come with you to meetings to help advocate for you—I am there to do that for you. So I would encourage that if there is a student who is thinking about potentially leaving higher education, that they come in and they talk to someone. I am a first generation college student myself, and someone had to support me through the process of getting to graduation. And now when I look back at it, in the process of pursuing my doctorate degree, I realize that it is a ladder-let-down, and it is my pay-it-forward for those who helped me get through my four years at George Mason. And so, I would definitely encourage students to reach out to people and let them know—even if it's me—to let someone know that they need assistance.
My grandfather told me right before I left to drive out of the gate: 'closed mouths don't get fed.' It took me a long time to realize what that meant, but I get it now. You have to speak up for yourself, you have to be an advocate for yourself, you have to let people know that you need help. So I would encourage any student who knows that they need help to come into the office—I am located in the Student Activities and Leadership Suite—and let me know, or anybody who is a part of that suite upstairs, [ . . . ] that they need assistance. That is what that office is there for, that is what I'm here for, and I would encourage students and welcome students to come in and talk with me about those things.