Saint Mary’s alumna assumes role of BAVO coordinator, emphasizes positive community relationships
Genevieve Coleman | Tuesday, April 5, 2022
Iesha Miller ‘17 has returned to the College to become the Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO) coordinator. Miller replaces former coordinator Liz Coulston, who is now the director of the Office for Student Involvement and Advocacy (OSIA).
Miller said it means a great deal to her to come back to Saint Mary’s to support students who might be experiencing interpersonal violence.
“I’ve seen the impact interpersonal violence has had on family members and friends,” she said. “As a student, I remember incidents occurring throughout my time here and it really opened my eyes to the prevalence of this issue on all campuses. It means a lot to have the opportunity to return to a community I know and love to provide advocacy and support to all students.”
Miller said she knew she wanted to be an advocate for people in need because of her childhood.
“As a child, I spent my first five years in the child welfare system and knew that when I grew up I wanted to help children who had a similar experience to mine,” Miller said. “Of course, how I wanted to help others changed as I got older, but I eventually did work in the Department of Child Services for almost four years.
While Miller noted she found this work rewarding, she wanted to embark on another career path.
“As much as I loved that work, I knew I wanted to pursue a different area in social work, and when presented with the opportunity to return to Saint Mary’s, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” she said.
Miller admitted that she did not initially know what she wanted to major in while she was at Saint Mary’s, but eventually pursued a master’s degree in social work.
“Like many students when they first arrive [on campus], I was unsure what I wanted to major in,” she said. “I finally decided on psychology and learned about various aspects of the field from very knowledgeable professors. I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology but eventually decided on applying for a [master’s in social work] program because of the many opportunities the degree could provide.”
As the head of BAVO, Miller explained she wants to continue the legacy of former coordinators while also taking the current needs of students into account.
“My hope is to continue providing the same advocacy and education as done by former coordinators while also incorporating topics and issues that students are interested in,” she said. “As students change and grow, so will their interests, and I want to ensure that I’m meeting their needs by including what they need most at the time.”
Miller credited the success of BAVO to continuous outreach to Notre Dame and Holy Cross, so students can be educated about rape culture and how it impacts students.
“I believe that Saint Mary’s strives to be a leader in providing education and advocacy regarding sexual assault and harassment and intimate partner violence by continuously collaborating with Notre Dame and Holy Cross to educate students, staff and faculty on the prevalence of these issues on all campuses,” she said. “As the new BAVO coordinator, I’m looking to continue collaborating with both campuses in addressing rape culture and its impact on students.”
Addressing the local community, Miller said she wants to continue to build a relationship with Saint Mary’s and South Bend so local organizations are also equipped to help those in need.
“I hope to continue the positive relationship that BAVO has with Saint Mary’s and local communities through collaboration and the services we provide,” Miller said. “I hope that BAVO continues to be seen as a helpful, knowledgeable resource for students, faculty and staff and a partner that local organizations and agencies can connect with to prepare students to navigate current and future relationships, as well as new environments and experiences they may encounter.”
Miller invited community members to engage with her and BAVO, so Saint Mary’s can provide the necessary resources to the tri-campus.
“I would like the community to know that I’m open to new ways and ideas on addressing these issues and that they are always welcome to reach out with any questions they have or support they may need.”