Vanessa Paolella/ The Bates Student
Steven D. Parker is the Assistant Dean of the Office of Intercultural Education, and last week, was kind enough to talk to me about the Office and his role in it.
According to Parker, the Bates Office of Intercultural Education (OIE) went through a metamorphosis recently. In July, a brand new staff was brought on to work for the office, including Parker. Parker is a graduate of Clout State University, where he received his B.S. in social work and then went on to receive his masters in student leadership from Colorado Springs University. His specialization while studying at Colorado Springs was how to operate higher education institutions, specifically ones for minorities.
Parker talked to me about some of the problems the OIE is trying to address at Bates specifically. As a private institution, Bates follows the trend of other private colleges by being predominantly white, in its students, faculty, and staff. Parker told me he considered well-structured institutions within the college as the key to combating the institutional inequality and racism inherent to private college. Parker said that the OIE currently has both volunteer and internship opportunities for students which he hopes to expand in the future.
When talking with Steven about his job, I asked about his and the OIE’s relationship to the students and administration. Parker informed me that the OIE is composed of four divisions, two of which are student-centered, one focuses on the administrative, and one on faculty. These four divisions all have the same goal of supporting equity and education on inclusion at Bates. In his position, Parker facilitates these goals by cultivating spaces, both face-to-face and virtually, where students “of all walks of life,” as he put it, can learn about and participate in intercultural education.
I asked Parker about the relationship most Bates students have to the OIE, and he stated that many students’ main exposure is through its study center (indisputably one of the best places to study on campus), but Parker has been working to broaden the OIE’s reach. The virtual limbs of the OIE include an Instagram page and Snapchat, both under the name @batesoie.
Like every aspect of Bates, the OIE has had to make adjustments during the pandemic. Parker told me that the new social distancing requirements have made some of the OIE’s functions more difficult; one of the primary conduits for creating equity and inclusion at Bates is in fostering environments open to everyone, and due to the pandemic, the OIE has gone from a capacity of 200 people to 50.
The last thing I asked Steven, was what he would like everyone who reads this profile to know. His answer: “We’re open, and fully operational.”