Two new hires joined the ranks of the new Center for Student Success: Eddie Gisemba, director of health promotion for students, and Brook Escobedo, assistant dean of students in Student Academic Success Programs.
The concept of social justice is based on advocacy for human rights and equality for all. Both Eddie Gisemba, the new director of health promotion for students, and Brook Escobedo, the newest assistant dean of students, view their roles as key in helping realize that concept at Oberlin.
“Conversations about social justice often concentrate on equity in education and resources,” says Gisemba. “But health should also be part of the conversation. Lack of resources, such as quality food and health care, lead to poor health. If you’re not healthy enough, you can’t pursue opportunities.”
Gisemba, who started in this role in October, sees himself as the first line of defense in addressing student wellness and health, beginning with prevention. And while he foresees collaboration with Student Health and the Counseling Center, he states that his approach to health and wellness is different. “With prevention being my focus, my goal is to keep students from getting sick. If I’m effective, it will reduce the need to utilize Student Health and the Counseling Center,” says Gisemba.
A Cleveland native, Gisemba spent six years at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, where he spearheaded health promotion efforts before returning to his home state.
“There’s a concept called ‘health equity,’ which proposes to eliminate some of those barriers to good health that exist in some subpopulations. As director of health promotion for students, I’ll be working to increase knowledge, access, and to break down myths—all in order to promote student health.”
Gisemba notes that he will be taking time to acquaint himself with the campus, his colleagues, and students to better understand existing needs. However, he is clear that his focus will be on reducing irresponsible alcohol and drug use, preventing STIs and unplanned pregnancies, and smoking cessation. “Considering the unique stage in adulthood and the nuances of the college life, substance abuse and sexual health are health issues on most college campuses.” Mental health will also be a key area of focus.
“College students, who are focused on classwork and other elements of the college experience, can put their health last,” says Gisemba. “That can mean a lot of stress, depression, and sleep deprivation.”
Gisemba believes his charge extends beyond a student’s time at Oberlin. “We’re here not only to address health for when they are in college, but also to address health for lifelong success.”
Gisemba is most looking forward to meeting and interacting with students at Oberlin, and he plans to seek student involvement as much as possible. “I want to bring students into the fold to come up with solutions together.”
Supporting Students’ Journeys Through College
As the daughter of a first-generation college student, Brook Escobedo understands the value of what it means for these students to be successful.
“My dad was first generation. I know that without what he endured I wouldn’t be where I am now. My mom was from a rural area, so she also navigated college without a lot of help,” says Escobedo. “College is hard. I care about students and their success, and my work is all about serving students.”
Previously on the admissions team at Middlebury College and the Middlebury Language Schools, Escobedo is well acquainted with a liberal arts environment. Prior to Middlebury, Escobedo worked for a nonprofit organization in Austin, Texas, where she supported first-generation, college-bound students on their path to college. At Oberlin, Escobedo will continue that work, supporting first-generation students in her role as assistant dean of students.
As part of the Student Academic Success Programs team, Escobedo will focus on retention efforts in the college. She will work closely with the Peer Mentors program to build community and expand programming for first-generation and low-income students. Escobedo will also facilitate “success advising,” previously called “special advising” in the Center for Student Success. In addition, she serves as a SHARE dean, meeting with students as needed to support them through their Oberlin experience. She will also be involved with medical leave process, ensuring students receive assistance and encouragement on departure and return.
Escobedo notes that her work isn’t just about academics. It is also about anticipating the types of support students will need. To that end, she intends to help students navigate the college environment by raising awareness of the available resources to encourage students’ success at Oberlin and beyond.
“I’m excited to be working with students over a long period of time,” says Escobedo. “When I was working in admissions, it was harder to build long-term relationships with students. Now, I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to help students navigate their college years all the way to graduation. Building those relationships is part of what a liberal arts college is all about.”