Staff profile: Elizabeth Thibodeau

There are too many instances in our lifetime in which we forget how to be human. In other words, we forget about the stories that each of us bare as we get caught up in the chaos of our own lives. We get so caught up that we forget about all the people that are willing to help us.

Photo courtesy: Lizzie Thibodeau
Lizzie Thibodeau, Sierra Nevada College’s director of student affairs and housing. takes a picture at Burning Man over Labor Day Weekend.

“People sometimes get caught up in the aspect of living every day ‘to be me’ and ‘I don’t really care about the people around me,’ but what they don’t realize is that I’m going to be with you for four, sometimes eight years depending on how long you stay, and you may need my help at some point, so don’t burn that bridge,” said Lizzie Thibodeau, Sierra Nevada College’s director of student affairs and housing, and Title Nine advocate.

Thibodeau is one of a handful of staff on campus that dedicates her time to ensuring that the dorm experience for all students is a safe and open environment. Her and her assistant, Hayden Takahashi, maintain an open-door policy while also staying on call 24-7 for any student emergencies.

“Having the open-door policy is really important to me, in order to watch students to make sure that they are flourishing and not spiraling down the drain and not feeling like they have no one to talk to,” Thibodeau said.

Her attention to student mental health has been driven by her passion for youth. When Thibodeau was a child she found herself facing challenges with dyslexia, spending a large portion of her elementary school years getting help with special education, so she was drawn to teaching.

“I wanted to be a teacher and that was my main goal all through life,” she said.

In high school she worked at her elementary school, helping out with specialized education with kids in different situations as well as kids with autism. When she moved to Lake Tahoe, Thibodeau was offered a full-ride scholarship to attend SNC. With credits from junior college, she was able to receive her Bachelor of Fine Arts in three years and asked the people in charge of her scholarship if it would be possible to extend her scholarship to pursue her K-8 teaching credential.

Eleven months later, after doing her student teaching, Thibodeau started working at an elementary school in the Tahoe area. After a year of working with the elementary school, she decided to move forward and get her high school credentials to teach. Faced with the decision to commute to Reno or pass up on a job offer, Thibodeau passed and found herself back at SNC as the assistant of student affairs. She worked her way up to the positions she now holds.

“It was a natural progression to Title Nine advocate…with the fact that most people come to me with their problems because they feel comfortable just coming here to find guidance,” Thibodeau said. The Title Nine advocate ensures that tenets of Title Nine legislation are observed on campus.

Although having so many titles meaning more responsibilities, Thibodeau still finds time to conversate with students as she catches a bite to eat in the school cafeteria.

Her devotion to the lives of students helped make her instrumental aspect to the welcoming environment of SNC. It is through her calm demeanor and inviting smile that Thibodeau is able to connect with the people around her, embodying the welcoming nature that SNC has to offer. However, it is much more than a smile and a demeanor that Thibodeau brings to the table.

Former students speak of her gracefulness in carrying out tasks, her willingness to dedicate her full attention to the matters at hand while also emphasizing her forgiving nature.

“I think the thing that people will remember the most about you is that despite the way that they treat you, you are always there for them and have always been there for them,” Takahashi said. “You continue to be there for them even when they are their absolute worst selves and still come back and be like, ‘Thanks Lizzie, I really appreciate it.’ The amount of patience and kindness she has for these students is unparalleled in anybody on this campus.” Takahashi is an SNC graduate and assistant director of student affairs.