VALHALLA, N.Y. -- It's been a bit of a homecoming for newly minted Westchester Community College president, Dr. Belinda Miles. This past January, the Queens native returned home to New York after being selected help lead one of the largest two-year institutions in the SUNY system, Westchester Community College. She was formally inaugurated as the school's third president earlier this month in a ceremony on October 2.
As a first generation college student, Dr. Miles became interested in education in large part due to the positive support and mentoring she received from faculty during her years as a student at CUNY’s York College. However, it wasn't until Dr. Miles began helping fellow students in the school's writing center that she began to hear a calling, she explains.
"Helping students write essays, learn grammar, and ultimately pass their courses and exams was an incredible experience" says Dr. Miles. "Many students would come back thanking me and actually ask for more help writing applications and essays for graduate schools. It was then that I saw the power of education. I saw people who were really able to advance." After a stint teaching at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, Dr. Miles found herself drawn towards the administrative aspect of education.
Prior to her appointment at Westchester Community College, Dr. Miles served as provost and executive vice president at Cuyahoga Community College in the Greater Cleveland area. "I had my eye on an opportunity to come back to New York, having family in the area, and this opportunity finally opened up." she says.
Now ten months into her tenure as President, Dr. Miles worked with faculty and academic administrators to restructure the college’s academic units aimed at providing students with more clearly defined pathways for their studies to take. "There are many fine four-year institutions within the SUNY system and the state, and I am dedicated to seeing how I can help create pathways into these universities for our students."However, the goal of Westchester Community College, and two-year schools across the nation, isn't solely to serve as a feeder for four-year universities, Dr. Miles explains. "We are one of the clear steps on the pathway to a four-year degree but, we also are preparing to send students directly into the workforce. Many of the students that do enter the workforce eventually come back to us for more education."
Ultimately, it's about helping people experience learning, no matter their stage of life."We want to be a place of lifelong learning," says Dr. Miles "from young students to old age."