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Getting To Know: Dean Taiwo Adefiyiju

Getting To Know: Dean Taiwo AdefiyijuDean Taiwo Adefiyiju

In our newest segment, "Getting To Know," we profile recent hires at CCRI and provide an in-depth look at their role at the college, their background prior to joining our community, and how their work reflects CCRI's guiding principles. Email [email protected] to nominate a co-worker. 

In early December, Providence, RI, native Taiwo Adefiyiju joined the CCRI community as our new Dean of Students with the goal of providing a vibrant and engaging college and campus experience for our entire student body.

Dean Adefiyiju previously worked at her alma mater, Providence College, where she served as Assistant Dean of Students & Director of Cultural Education, a role that allowed her to work more closely with students and develop support teams for students with behavior concerns while implementing success plans for underrepresented students struggling with a variety of issues.

Upon enrolling at PC as a student, Dean Adefiyiju struggled at first without her twin brother, whom she had attended school with at every level through senior year of high school. Once she adapted, she took on a variety of leadership roles in student organizations such as the Board of Multicultural Student Affairs, Afro-American Society, and the Step Up Mentoring Program, and served as a resident assistant. That experience helped her realize her true ambition and led her to a career helping students overcome the same hurdles she faced in her academic journey.

In today's "Getting To Know" segment, we dive deeper into Dean Adefiyiju's goals at CCRI, her most memorable experiences at PC, and how a near-tragic event during her senior year of college taught her a new outlook on life. 

While it’s still very early in your tenure at CCRI, what are some of the goals you’ve established as the new Dean of Students?

What I’m really looking forward to doing is creating a place of belonging where all students know and feel like they belong. The Rhode Island Promise scholarship adds a different layer to all of this in that there is a new perspective in terms of student needs, therefore it’s imperative to get to know the students first. We also have to acknowledge the demands of parenting parents and create a space of belonging to help them achieve their academic goals. Above all else, we want to be intentional; it all starts with something simple like learning how to say their name. This demonstrates to students that you value them and that they belong.

During your time at Providence College, what would you consider your most rewarding endeavor or achievement?

I took great pride in helping students create lasting memories with individuals from all walks of life and demonstrating to students the power of storytelling. With every name there is a story. We also implemented cultural agility programming/trainings/affinity groups that helped students and staff recognize their own unconscious biases while equipping them with real-world strategies, techniques, pedagogy to engage in meaningful conversations and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) on campus.

Having worked on a number of different committees and with underrepresented students at PC, what would you see is the biggest key to promoting cultural awareness at the college level?

We must appreciate shared differences. Exposing students to the multitudes of opinions, cultures, and backgrounds (through internships, volunteer work, classroom, networking and student clubs) can better equip students to thrive in their future workplace while helping them enrich their own personal lives and thoughts. I also think it’s important to help students establish their “why” – their purpose. You should also get to know your students. While students may share similar end goals (graduation or obtaining a degree) we should appreciate the differences in their journey.

How have your life experiences helped you in terms of being relatable to students and being able to understand their needs and expectations once they step foot on a college campus?

Through the years, I’ve learned to stress the importance of storytelling. I often share with students that I feel I’ve failed as a leader if they strive to want to be like me because my goal for each student is for them to be better than me. By offering your students the chance to develop the ability to communicate respectfully with peers from other backgrounds, you better prepare them to operate in the ever-shifting workplace and changing society. The reality is you can learn something from every mistake, failure, or setback. As they say, you miss 100 percent of the opportunities you don’t take.

Days before your commencement at PC, your family’s home caught on fire. Thankfully, no one was injured. Did that moment – and the response from your network at PC – in any way shape what you wanted to do with your career beyond PC?

The outpouring from the Providence College community is one I simply struggle to put in words. You may encounter obstacles or life-changing events that derail your plans at that moment, but, for me, I was determined not to let this matter derail my future. In this specific instance, knowing your “why” is important. You must identify your place of peace and know your support network. Things happen in life, but that should not impact the goals you set for yourself.

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