Transitions: BIIN’s Staff for Fall 2022
Transitions: BIIN's Staff for Fall 2022
At the start of every semester, BIIN welcomes new interns, but in fall 2022, the organization is undergoing changes in staffing that are more significant than usual. In addition to the seasonal renewal of intern roles, a couple of new positions have been created, a search for a new director is underway, and another staff member is stepping down, to make it easier for the organization to offer a full-time position in lieu of two part-time roles.
Director Jaimi Washburn, who has led the staff and worked with successive boards of directors since March 2018, announced earlier this summer that she would be passing the baton as soon as a new director is hired and brought on board. Janet Morford, BIIN’s Communications and Development Coordinator, who has shared intern supervision responsibilities with Jaimi and taken the lead on the newsletter and other writing-intensive tasks since February 2020, is also stepping down later this Fall.
The BIIN board has been aware of and planning for this transition since spring 2022. Given the organization’s needs and limited budget, Jaimi invested much time and effort in learning how BIIN could host AmeriCorps members, and in defining coordinator roles that enhance BIIN’s capacity while meeting the scope of the AmeriCorps program. Jaimi and Janet collaborated on developing job descriptions and prepared, with help from intern Sydney Williams, several successful grant proposals to secure funding for these new positions. With these changes afoot, the transition from summer to fall has been busier than usual for Jaimi, as she recruited and trained two new AmeriCorps members along with multiple interns, while welcoming and orienting new board members, and working with them to advance the search for a new director.
Given all the transitions underway, Janet and Jaimi thought it would be helpful to update everyone in the BIIN-o-sphere about the people who comprise BIIN’s staff as of September 2022. We asked each staff member to share a little bit about themselves: their role at BIIN, how they got here, the interests and strengths they bring, and what they do when they are not working for the organization. As you’ll see, there is a great deal of energy and talent in this group, many of whom bring to their work direct experience of the challenges that immigrants face in their daily lives. We hope that these portraits will help you not only know “who’s who” among the BIIN staff, but also really appreciate the individuals whose skills and commitment, day after day, enable this organization to be a place of welcome and support for immigrants in our community.
Adriana C. Stowe, Website and Database Manager
I help wherever I am needed in the online world of BIIN. I first heard about this organization when looking for internships for my sociology minor at TAMU. I interviewed late, with only a technology internship left to fill for the Fall of 2018. I enjoyed it so much, knowing I could help from the back-end of things, and I became a member of the staff in 2020.
I am no expert in the world of technology, ironically, but I am very good at investigating and figuring out how things work! There have been many times when I’ve been assigned a task and I’ve thought to myself, “I have no idea what I’m doing,” and yet somehow, I always figure it out! I think that’s a pretty special skill. I tend not to give up and will always find a way around a problem!
I used to do a lot of reading and writing (and some Netflix binging). These days, I am mainly just trying to survive as I raise my beautiful 6 month-old baby boy! When I am able to catch a break, I still enjoy doing some of my old hobbies and watching late-night shows with my husband.
Tania Barrios, IRA Coordinator
As an AmeriCorps member at BIIN, I am serving as the IRA Coordinator alongside a team of other volunteers. I had heard about BIIN a few years back from a professor who suggested that BIIN’s mission aligned with my passion in serving my community. As soon as I heard that BIIN was looking for an IRA Coordinator, I submitted my application.
Prior to this role, I had been trained as a case manager. I worked at a local nonprofit that serves former-foster youth and I was mentored by the case manager there. Through her, I learned how to do intake assessments, housing referrals, de-escalation tactics, and how to best meet the needs of the most vulnerable members of our community. Additionally, I became familiar with resources and partners in the community, and this has helped me tremendously in making referrals to clients as well as friends and family. I am Mexican-American and speak Spanish fluently. As a child of two immigrant parents from Mexico, I’ve seen firsthand their struggles in trying to build a life in a new country. I hope that through my work at BIIN, I can help bridge the gap for those trying to establish a life here.
Outside of my work with BIIN, I am a full-time senior at Texas A&M, and spend a lot of time studying at the library. When I’m not studying, I am very likely spending time with my family or friends, whether it’s cooking a meal together, playing board games, or just hanging out. I also really enjoy challenging myself by learning new things, and for the past year I’ve been learning Mandarin Chinese!
Viviana Castillo, ESL Coordinator
As an AmeriCorps member, I am serving BIIN this year as the ESL Coordinator. I initially heard about BIIN through a friend at A&M. I volunteered with the Conversational English classes from time to time during the academic year and this past summer. I heard about the AmeriCorps opportunity with BIIN through the Sociology Department at A&M and decided to apply.
Some skills that help with the role I play here at BIIN are that I am bilingual, and that I am a reliable and relatable person. My interests are in the immigrant community. I do not understand everyone’s experiences, but as an immigrant myself, there are many things that I may have experienced myself or with my parents.
When I am not working at BIIN, I am on the A&M campus either in class, working in the library or in the First Gen Center. Otherwise, I may be cooking, cleaning or enjoying free time in my apartment.
Sydney Williams, Citizenship Intern
In the spring of 2022, I was searching for internship opportunities that would allow me to work closely with immigrant communities in my area. I stumbled upon BIIN and was fortunate enough to spend the summer as a Conversational English class intern. This fall I am serving as one of BIIN’s citizenship class interns. I am very excited to be back in the classroom and working with citizenship class participants this fall!
My personal interests revolve around immigration, development, and humanitarian assistance. After graduating, I want to work in immigration services in a policy capacity and hope that my work with BIIN will enhance my understanding and perspective for my future career. I am very interested in learning about culture and history, and I have spent a good bit of time abroad studying Spanish. I think perhaps my most useful skills will be my ability to listen and to communicate with students to help serve their needs.
I am a graduate student at the Bush School of Government and Public Service where I study International Affairs (National Security and Diplomacy). I am also a committee chair for our student government organization’s International Relations Committee, where we assist international students with their transition at A&M. I also recently accepted a position to work for Beto O’Rourke as a Student Fellow, helping to manage student organizing for his campaign for Governor of Texas. In my free time, I like to watch Netflix, play basketball, cook, bake, and play video games with my friends!
Alyssa Mercado, Marketing and Citizenship Intern
I think my drive is the biggest part of my ability to work! Aside from that, I’m strongly skilled in writing and media management, largely in part due to my experiences at Texas A&M. I also speak Spanish at a conversational level, and read and write it at an intermediate level. There’s always room to improve!
School keeps me very busy! I’m currently a senior at Texas A&M pursuing a B.A. in International Studies. I also am spending my time applying to graduate schools, and fulfilling my role as the Public Relations Executive for the Texas A&M Chapter of Her Campus, an online magazine. If I’m not doing any of those things, I’m probably getting some much needed R&R.
Alyssa Ramos Mora, Conversational English Intern
Immigration has always been a passion of mine and I am grateful that I have the opportunity to give back to the community. Aside from my interest in immigration, I am fluent in Spanish which helps me interact with more people. I also learned to navigate my way through the internet, and have become proficient in using technological tools (like Google Docs, Google Calendar, Zoom).
When I am not working at BIIN, I attend classes at Texas A&M where I am majoring in political science with a minor in sociology. In my free time, I like to spend time with my friends at coffee shops, watching “The Office,” or traveling with my family!
Jonathan Cortez, Conversational English Intern
My role at BIIN is helping with the English classes on Mondays and Wednesdays. As an intern, my duties range from setting up the class and taking attendance to helping translate and work one on one with students. I first heard of BIIN through one of my sociology professors.
What skills do I bring to this role? First, I possess leadership skills from my job as a shift supervisor at Chick-Fil-A, where I run shifts, interview and hire applicants, and help them become leaders. Having this experience makes it easier for me to coordinate specific tasks for volunteers. I am also bilingual and used to working with people from different backgrounds. As an intern, I want to help the Latino/immigrant community, which I know well since I grew up in an immigrant household.
When I am not working for BIIN, I am either attending classes, doing homework/studying or working at my other job. After I have finished all my responsibilities, in my free time, I like to go out with friends.
Casey Zaragosa, Conversational English Intern
I am fortunate to be one of the Conversational English interns at BIIN this fall. I heard of this organization from Dr. Kathryn Dietrich, director of the sociology internship program. When I saw that there was a chance to help immigrants, I had to apply. I am excited to work for this amazing organization.
I am a native Spanish speaker which makes me fluent in two languages. (I am also currently learning ancient Greek, which isn’t really helpful, but more of a fun fact.) I also know two computer programming languages and I am skilled with customer service. I really like to give back and help others as much as I can.
Usually when I am not at BIIN, I am on campus – whether in class, at work, or just studying with friends at the MSC. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my friends and family. I also like to read, paint, take pictures, and listen to music.