Former Advocacy and Prevention Coordinator to lead education, prevention
Newswire photo by Ellen Siefke | Talia Tuesta is excited to head efforts for sexual assault prevention and peer education on campus in her new role as Title IX Program Director.
While students were excitedly packing their bags and preparing for Christmas break, the Title IX Office was abuzz with news of its own: the selection of Talia Tuesta for the position of Title IX Program Director.
Previously the Advocacy and Prevention Coordinator, Tuesta’s new duties will entail spearheading Xavier’s education and prevention programs as well as assisting the Title IX office in education training and investigative work.
Tuesta officially assumed her new position on Tuesday. Until her replacement is hired, she will juggle continuing to fulfill some of the duties of the Advocacy and Prevention Coordinator with her new role as program director.
She said she was attracted to the position because of the potential for growth.
“I’m excited for this new opportunity because it’s a same thread of the work I’ve been doing, but it’s looking at it through a different lens,” Tuesta said. “I’m looking forward to that opportunity for growth and being in a space where I can learn how to do things in a different way but still tap into best practices, which is to have a survivor-centered lens and making sure I’m understanding that.”
According to Xavier’s Title IX Director Kate Lawson, there were four main factors that led to naming Tuesta as the new program director: her understanding of Xavier’s mission and ability to articulate how her work fulfills that mission; her “expertise around inclusion and cultural competence around prevention/education,” particularly in areas pertaining to Title IX; her understanding of Xavier’s five-year Diversity and Inclusion Plan; and her previous work with students through peer education groups.
“Talia has demonstrated an ability to help students discern for themselves, ‘What is my role here, while I’m on this campus and beyond?’ and really effectively help students, faculty and staff, but particularly students, figure out what role they play and what are the unique skills and interests that they bring,” Lawson said.
Tuesta’s background includes a variety of work in areas pertaining to sexual and gender-based violence. In February, she will mark seven years in the field of advocacy and confidentiality.
Her work began in Bowling Green near Toledo, Ohio which is a high sex-trafficking area. She then worked in a shelter that dealt with cases of domestic or intimate partner violence before going to grad school. It was there that she found her current path in a university setting.
“I realized that the community work, while it’s very fulfilling, it’s very different than in a higher ed setting, and I wanted to give that higher ed setting a try since I had not experienced it in my previous roles,” Tuesta said.
Xavier is her third school, and she previously worked at the University of Cincinnati (UC) and University of Kentucky in peer education roles. She helped develop training tools for the peer educators at UC, and she created a peer education group at Kentucky. She then arrived on Xavier’s campus in 2017, where she has continued her work with peer education.
Tuesta said her own experience as an undergrad drew her to this area.
“I know I, as an undergraduate student, really valued the adults in my life who helped me to think,” Tuesta said. “I really like doing that for students: not giving them the opinions that they should have, but letting them explore all different kinds of topics, and part of the peer education program is…just giving students the space to explore the things that they are wondering or curious about but either don’t want to say it because they might come across in some way or they just don’t have the opportunity to explore those topics.”
In her new role, Tuesta’s primary function will be to coordinate the university’s gender-based violence prevention and education efforts. Her work begins right away: This week, she’s attending a four-day training event hosted by the Association of Title IX Administrators that Lawson herself attended five years ago.
Next, she’ll focus on developing a plan for the future of education and prevention on campus. For example, part of that plan will be naming the primary prevention strategy to be implemented across campus. Also to be discussed is the role student groups like the BRAVE Peer Educators will play.
“Ideally, we’re figuring out some sort of prevention plan and have some sort of vision that has three-, five- and 10-year goals, basically testing those thousands of ideas with key partners, whether that’s faculty or students, kind of having the same conversations with lots and lots of people so that it can be tweaked to the way it fits on campus,” Tuesta said. “Hopefully, if we look at where we are in five or 10 years, we are in a place where Title IX response is even better and prevention exists.”
Lawson said that having a central connecting person like Tuesta to act as the face of Title IX prevention and education on campus will prove invaluable in terms of better connecting student leaders and groups.
“It seems so small, but it makes all of the difference,” Lawson said. “(If a student approaches her), Talia can say, ‘You know what? I’m so glad you came, because two other students came yesterday and said x, y, z.’ The student activism around these issues has exploded over the past five years…It’s a good time to bring all that passion, all that strength, a lot of expertise from student leaders, so that we can harness all that work that they’ve done.”
Tuesta also discussed the benefits of being in a position where she can focus on education and prevention.
“(Prevention is) something that I have been really passionate about but have never had the space or the opportunity to focus most of the time on,” Tuesta said. “I’m excited to kind of structure or re-structure the way things are happening with regards to prevention, and I’m excited to be a part of that story and see where we go from here.”
Overall, Tuesta expressed eagerness to begin work in her new role.
“I’m looking forward to just getting started,” Tuesta said. “I think there’s a lot of talk about what we’re going to do, and I’m getting excited about how those changes will actually look and just kind of going for it.”
In terms of the Advocacy and Prevention Coordinator position, Lawson hopes to have a replacement by mid-March and encourages students who are interested in being involved with the process to contact her or Tuesta and to attend the forthcoming open forums with the final candidates. They also emphasized that advocacy will still be available throughout the transition process and to contact either of them with any questions or concerns.
By: Ellen Siefke | Editor-in-Chief