Name: Toby Simon
Hometown: Providence RI
Professional Field: Higher Ed Administration, Human Sexuality, Adolescent Development, Women's Issues
Job at Bryant: Director, Gertrude Hochberg Women's Center and assistant to the VP for Student Affairs
HC: How did you get started at Bryant?
TS: I had been working at a college in New York City as the VP for Student Affairs. I was very happy at the job and loved the students at our college. But I was also commuting from my home in Providence to NYC each week. Sometimes my husband and son came to visit me on the weekends, but mostly I did the commuting. It was worth it because I truly loved the work at the college. But then 9/11 happened and it had a profound impact on me. I felt that our world would never quite be the same and things felt very uncertain. I decided that I would rather be in RI with my family than in New York City alone. So I left the job in 2002 and moved back home. A few months later I noticed that Bryant was starting a Women's Center and they were looking for a director. I applied realizing that this would be an outstanding opportunity to shape a center on a campus that was underrepresented by female students. I got the job and the rest is history!!
HC: What does a typical day consist of in The Women's Center?
TS: Hmmm, there probably isn't a typical day. One thing that can happen to me is that a student in crisis will suddenly appear at my door. She may have been sexually assaulted or beaten up by her boyfriend or sexually harassed in class, but she's in crisis and needs to talk. Although I am not a counselor, sometimes students know that I'm someone they can go to when there's trouble-especially incidents of sexual assault, dating violence or harassment. My job is often to gently refer a student in crisis to our capable counseling center. Besides emergencies, I have some standing meetings each week with students and my colleagues. I am teaching this semester! It's a human sexuality course called "From Womb to Tomb" and addresses sexuality issues throughout the life cycle. So that's an important part of my week. I am also working with some faculty on the new Gateway curriculum for first year students so that requires some meeting times. I try to exercise most days and if I don't do it in the morning before work, I'll hit the pool at noontime or maybe go for a run. I need to be outside and moving!!
HC: What are the hours of operation of The Women's Center? Where is it located?
TS: The Hochberg Women's Center is located on the third floor of the Bryant Center. We are open at 9 am each day and our closing time varies. There is usually someone around until 6 pm, sometimes later.
HC: What is your favorite resource that Bryant offers?
TS: I have two: one is the use of the athletic facilities. The pool is fabulous and often empty! The tracks are great for running on and there are lots of ways to stay in shape! The other is the quality of speakers and lectures that come to campus. I love working on a college campus because there are always interesting people who come as guest lecturers, on a variety of topics. And these talks are always open to the public. It's intellectually stimulating and I just love it!
HC: What is your favorite resource that The Women's Center offers?
TS: I think my favorite resource is our actual space. We have a small living room with cozy couches, warm tones, throw pillows and all that good stuff. Students often take naps in our living room. Or they come to study alone at night in the center because it is so calm and quiet and conducive for getting work done. Besides the physical space, I am glad that we can offer free condoms to men and women on campus because I am a firm believer in safer sex practices. Far too many college students put themselves at risk for STIs or unplanned pregnancy when they are totally preventable through condom use. I'm proud that the Hochberg Women's Center is right out there promoting healthy sexuality for our men and women.
HC: Any upcoming events or classes you would love for the Bryant community to join in on?
TS: We have a national election coming up and women's health issues feature prominently in this campaign. I would love to see our students get really involved in the campaigns. I am especially worried about what will happen to some of the preventive health care for women like pap screenings, easy access to contraception, affordable contraception, STI screens etc. The Republican party has not been kind to women: they want to cut funding to support these programs and they are very unyielding on their abortion stance. At the GOP convention this week, there is a platform calling for a total ban on abortions even in cases of rape or incest. That's horrible and women (and men) should be outraged enough to get involved this fall!
HC: Lastly, if you could give any advice to freshmen what would it be and why?
TS: Be yourselves. You can reinvent yourself from who you were in high school, but be authentic. Take risks. Befriend people you wouldn't ordinarily think of as possible friends. Get involved in as many clubs and orgs as you can handle. Get off campus and explore Providence and our state. Don't let the perfect get in the way of the possible!