10 questions with Sonya Wilmoth, director of the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity
Sonya Wilmoth was recently appointed the new director of the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity after working for the center since 2013. In her new role, she works to develop the educational program to promote inclusion around the Penn State campus.
We sat down with Wilmoth to talk about his new role and the importance of advocating for diversity and gender and gender inclusion.
Advanced state: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Sonya Wilmoth: I am from Maryland and can choose a steamed blue crab. I graduated from La Salle University in 1988 and went to West Chester University to get my first Masters in Sports and Track and Field Administration. I was a scholar softball player at La Salle and West Chester, I had a graduate assistant position in the sports department. I ended up applying for the vacant softball coach position and held that position for seven years.
I moved to Jacksonville, Florida to be the first full-time head softball coach at the University of North Florida. I spent 12 seasons there before retiring from coaching. I was an assistant professor at UNF and the University of Jacksonville before I moved from Jacksonville to San Antonio, Texas. My partner (now ex) got a job there and we moved there in 2011. I came to State College, still following his career, in 2013 and applied for the position of Assistant Principal at Resource center for students of the LGBTA era.
OS: Why did you decide to apply for the post of director of the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity?
SW: Well, after spending so much time as an executive assistant and as an interim director twice, I felt like I had been involved in all aspects of the center and ready to go. assume this role. I have made many partnerships and connections across campus and experienced all of Penn State’s systems. I love Penn State, the community, and being back in the Northeast.
I’ve learned so much from former directors Allison Subasic and Brian Patchcoski. Both gave me the tools and the confidence I needed to take on this role. Most importantly, I was a student navigating the coming out process and had no one to turn to. I really feel the need to support and connect with students who need resources and support. College is such an important time in a student’s life, and the additional stressors that sexual and gender diversity bring can be overwhelming. I want to help students get through this time and help them thrive at Penn State.
OS: How and when did you develop an interest in promoting sexual and gender diversity and inclusion?
SW: I think the last part of the previous question would answer that. As a softball coach, I have seen many of my student-athletes struggle through their coming-out process while I was locked in for fear of losing my job. I feel a lot of regret that I was not more transparent and open on my own journey, which may have been helpful to them to see it.
OS: Why did you decide to switch from your track and field work at former universities to advocating for gender and gender diversity at Penn State?
SW: Well, I think in any role on a college campus that you advocate for for students, it takes different forms. See answer to # 3. I have always been drawn to making a difference in the lives of students.
Operating system : What is your role as the new director of the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity?
SW: Oversee the day-to-day operations of the center and staff, control the budget, support and advocate for students, and represent the center and students who have diverse sexualities and genders on campus
OS: What were your previous positions at the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity? How do you think they are connected and how do you think they differ from each other?
SW: As an assistant, I was really involved in a lot of the programming. I was responsible for collaborating on programming and creating meaningful connections on campus. I was also responsible for the educational programming of faculty, staff and graduate students. We are all really involved in the day-to-day support of the students. I think the transparency created by Brian Patchcoski has allowed all of us to really see and be a part of everything the center does. This provided a level of comfort to transition into the role of director.
OS: How do you think Penn State can improve to make its campus more inclusive and equitable for students and faculty?
SW: Education. The more we can educate students, faculty and staff about sexual and gender diversity, the more we can work to effect change. In our current educational sessions, we hear a lot of people saying that they want to do more, and that is very promising.
OS: In what ways can Penn State students help create change on campus?
SW: I believe that if passionate students who really want to see change come together for a common purpose, change can happen. No one knows more about the student experience on campus than our students. We must empower them to show the way.
OS: What changes or ideas do you have that would shape the future of the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity?
SW: One of the areas that I think we can continue to develop is our educational program – both faculty, staff and graduate students as well as undergraduate peer education. Genuine collaboration with units, offices and entities across campus are also goals that I have to move the work forward. Our students navigate the campus with all of their identities, and as a university, we have an obligation to create spaces where they can fully express themselves.
OS: According to Onward State lore, if you could be a dinosaur, which one would you like to be and why?
SW: Oh, I watched Dino Hunters on Discovery. I think I would choose the triceratops. It has been characterized as having a soft disposition but has a spooky look. I can understand sometimes.
Some of these answers have been edited slightly for clarity.