Staff Spotlight: Assistant Dean for Intercultural Engagement Joi Dallas
As Assistant Dean for Intercultural Engagement, Joi Dallas plays an integral role in supporting affinity housing and students' cultural belonging on campus. We sat down with her to talk about her recent projects and her path to Bryn Mawr.
Can you tell us about yourself and your work as the Assistant Dean for Intercultural Engagement?
This is my fourth year at Bryn Mawr College, but it is actually my first year as an assistant dean. Before, I was the residential life coordinator. I really have a passion for working with students on identity, community building, and lifting up students of color. And I’m having a great time so far!
In terms of what I do, I help students bring their culture from home here. For example, a lot of people miss their food from home, so I make sure that we have grocery trips to H Mart, and African Caribbean, Mexican, Indian, and Middle Eastern grocery stores. We want to make sure that people have the ingredients, spices, and snacks that are going to make them feel a little more at home on campus because for some people, home is hundreds of miles away.”
I’m also helping to support the four AMOs affiliated with the Black cultural center, so that’s Sisterhood*, BACaSO, Mujeres*, and Zami+. Most recently, I helped Mujeres* with their Latinx Heritage Month to make sure that they were able to bring in artists and chefs to celebrate the many cultures that makeup Latinidad. Right now, I’m working with Sisterhood* for Black History Month, and I’m very excited for people to see what Sisterhood* has been working on.
Affinity housing is so special and important to me. My college experience was really impacted by affinity programming because they helped me develop my racial identity, and that is really where my heart is. And I’m glad that Bryn Mawr has invested in affinity housing and programming, and I hope they continue to invest.
Can you share your experience these past couple of months preparing for Black History Month and what you’re looking forward to?
I have to shout out the two Sisterhood* Black History Month Coordinators, Alloyah Abobi ‘23, and Bintou Dembele ‘24 who have been absolutely excellent. They have been meeting with me every single week since November and all through winter break. Big props to them because it takes a lot of commitment to get this done in time.
We’ve had discussions about how they wanted Black History Month to be celebrated on this campus and what topics are relevant to our community. That includes education, history lessons, art, and opportunities for joy and play. We were talking about all of that as they decided what events they wanted to have, and I think we've come up with a really robust calendar with a lot of different things to do.
What has been your journey getting to Bryn Mawr?
So, I actually went to grad school to be a high school guidance counselor. After going to school in Boston, I wanted to come home and work in Philly. But since the process of getting licensure for a new state was so long, I planned on getting a job in residential life—something that I love—for a year or two during that process.
I applied to residential life jobs in the Tri-Co, and I picked Bryn Mawr because the job description said, “you will have the opportunity to help support and work with the Black cultural center.” I really liked that I’d get to both work in residential life and work with the Black cultural center. So that was the defining factor for me, and then of course when I visited, everyone was so kind and the campus is beautiful, so it wasn’t a hard sell.
You have a plan, and then things happen, and nothing goes according to plan. So, I love talking to people who are worried about their major and are worried about what they’re going to do because I am not doing what I went to school for, but I love it. I still really love counseling and high schoolers, and get to use those skills here sometimes, too.
What do you think makes residential life at Bryn Mawr unique?
Oh, I know exactly what makes residential life at Bryn Mawr unique. It’s a much more trusting community. At the last college I was at, having a common fridge was not a thing because everything would get stolen, having your shoes outside your dorm was a no because someone would steal them, even leaving your umbrella at the front of a building. People here do leave their things around, and on the whole, they’re still there when people come back. I like that about the community.
I also like that the dorms are not class-specific. I think that’s really great for an intergenerational community. I like that everyone is encouraged to make friends across classes here, and I think that’s really beautiful.
Can you share how you like to spend your time outside of work?
I like to read, and I’m in a book club with my friends. I just finished reading Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hersey, and that was a really good book about rejecting grind culture, capitalism, and White Supremacy. I also like to go hiking and be in nature. I also enjoy going to Spruce Street Harbor, doing some roller skating, and getting on the Ferris Wheel.
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