Katia Santiago-Taylor, Babson College’s new director of wellness and prevention, knows a thing or two about facing challenges. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, she arrived in Massachusetts as a first-year student at UMass Amherst. “I came from a family without financial means so I came by myself and I had to adjust,” Santiago-Taylor said. “I struggled significantly with my English when I first came to college. I had to work hard, and I experienced a lot of challenges and discrimination.”
After UMass, Santiago-Taylor earned her master’s degree in criminal justice at Northeastern and then took a job as a victim witness advocate in the district attorney’s office. Her work in domestic violence and sexual assault prevention eventually led her to her role as policy director at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, where she worked for eight years before coming to Babson last month.
What interested you about coming to Babson?
“In my previous position, I was doing policy and advocacy work at the state level and had the opportunity to work closely with The Every Voice Coalition. The goal of the coalition is to raise awareness of sexual violence at higher education institutions. I worked with them on getting new legislation passed in Massachusetts that requires colleges to conduct a campus climate survey every four years and establishes a memorandum of understanding between campus and local law enforcement. Working with the students in the coalition, seeing their passion, seeing their commitment, seeing their drive, seeing how much they could change drew me to this age group. They really showed up for their community, and their work was impactful. I realized that these are the people who are going to change the world, and I wanted to work more with this age group.
“I’m also in a place in my personal life and my family life where I place significant value on wellness. From eating right and exercising to mental health, I’m thinking a lot about the whole self. So, when this position came along, I knew this is where I am as a person and as a professional. Babson has a strong wellness program and team already in place, and there is a significant commitment from the higher-ups. It was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up.”
What do you want students to know about you?
“The thing about me is that I bring my whole self to work. I bring my full identity to work. I am fully committed to helping our students, and I’m ready to engage. I bring a lot of experience at different levels, but I’m also here to learn from them and to grow personally and professionally.
“My identity is really important to who I am and what I bring to the work I do. I am Puerto Rican, and I identify as a woman of color because of the complexities of our racial and ethnic background. I am also a mother of a 15-year-old and a 10-year-old, and my motherhood is an important part of my identity. I have one introvert and the other is an extrovert. The complexities of the last year have been really challenging, and they have each absorbed the trauma and processed the experience differently. As we are hopefully coming to the end of the pandemic, we all can take some of the lessons learned and move forward.”
How do you see Babson continuing to support students as we transition back to normal?
“We need to meet students where they are and not make any assumptions. We need to be conscious of not overlooking anyone and be creative because we don’t know what to expect. We had to learn through the pandemic, and we need to do that again as we navigate our new normal. We have to keep our doors open and provide the resources and services different students will need.”
“We need to meet students where they are and not make any assumptions.”
Katia Santiago-Taylor, director of wellness and prevention
What else are you focused on in your new role?
“Sexual violence prevention in higher ed is critical. In order to prevent it, we really need to focus on education, teaching consent, teaching boundaries, teaching ways to talk about the engagements they’re having. I want to hone in on giving people the tools to own their behavior and to understand that some of their actions cause harm.
“We also need to make sure students understand the impact that everything they do has on their bodies and on their mental health. We need to give them the tools they need to lead healthy lives and to be successful in what they want to be.”
What are some of the biggest challenges you anticipate?
“I think it’s the unknown. It’s how we’re going to be able to address everyone’s concerns, be able to meet everyone where they are, and be able to keep working toward the goals we have as a program. So, there’s a challenge in not knowing but at the same time, we are a strong team and we are committed to making sure students are taking care of their whole selves. We will help them get what they need to thrive in school.”
Do you have tips for new or returning students coming back to campus this fall?
“Reach out and ask what services are available. Don’t silo yourself. We are committed to supporting students in their wellness, their health, and in their academics. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
Two More for Katia Santiago-Taylor
What does Babson mean to you?
“It’s the whole concept of innovation and entrepreneurship. I have always believed that just because something works doesn’t mean we can’t tweak it. The Babson mindset tells us we can be better, set higher standards, and be the leaders in what we do.”
Right now, what are you …
- Reading? “I’m reading We Will Not Cancel Us, by Adrienne Maree Brown. It’s about transformative justice. It’s a quick read, but it’s really good.”
- Watching? “I’m watching (or rewatching!) ‘New Girl.’ It’s a very light half an hour—mindless entertainment, but it’s really funny. And, I’m excited to watch the second season of ‘Ted Lasso’!
- Listening to? “Brené Brown has a really good podcast. I like audio books, but my commute is so short that it takes me forever. I’m currently listening to ‘I Have The Right To’ by Chessy Prout. I gave it to my daughter and told her I thought she should listen to it.”
- Doing for fun? “It’s summer—I’m with my kids! Last Sunday, the sun came out for like a half-hour, and I told my daughter to put on a bathing suit and grab the beach chairs. We went to a pond near my house just to get a little sun after all this rain!”
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