Meet The Newest Addition to the Women’s Center Team, Renée Turgeon!

The Women’s Center at Minnesota State University, Mankato is a place for anybody, anytime. The mission of the Women's Center is to foster a healthy, safe, and engaging campus community by enabling the full and active participation of women students in both their personal and educational pursuits at Minnesota State University, Mankato. The Women's Center provides programs, connections, advocacy, services and leadership opportunities for all MSU students. The Women’s Center is a safe haven to many women and impacts the lives of students everyday, but it wouldn’t be the establishment it has grown to be without the leadership of the directors. That’s why we found it was so important to take the time to sit down and have a chat with the new assistant director of the Women’s Center, Renée Turgeon. 

Her Campus: Tell us a little bit about you, how did you come across this job: 

Renee Turgeon: “Ummm, probably the Internet? I applied in like May; apparently paperwork things take really long. I went to Grad School in Madison for 8.5 years. I’d never gone to Mankato before but I really like the cities, [Twin Cities] probably my favorite non-coastal area in the country that I've been to. I really like the cities and its close, you know. I went to a small state school so this is the kind of environment that i would love to work in.” 

HC: Where did you complete your undergrad? 

RT: “Eastern Washington University, (the MSU Mankato of Washington) I grew up in Washington and California. So I'd been in Madison for a minute.” 

HC: What degrees do you have? 

RT: “English major as an undergrad. Went to Madison originally to the PHD program for English for like 6 years. Then decided that I don't want to teach so I have a Master’s degree in English and then like half of a PhD and then a master’s degree in higher education admin.” 

HC: Were you looking for this kind of position? 

RT: “Yes! This is like yes!” 

HC: Dream job? 

RT: “Yes! This is totally my jam. Like long term want to be working higher education like admin type stuff in general, but really specifically want to work more in identity based services, kind of niche resource services for students.” 

HC: When did you develop feminist values?

RT: “Oh! I don’t know that I can pinpoint it. Definitely always been there kind of like, “How long have you been gay?” “Well, I’ve been gay forever!” haha I don’t see it as a moment, like I see my development as a feminist as something that’s ongoing. I also have a GWS minor. 

When I got to college, I first started taking like women’s studies classes, I’m like “Oh my god this is amazing!” All hardcore, anarchic-feminist. The more you learn the more you learn that you need to learn! Learning about Queerness, learning about... The more I’ve developed in various parts of my identity and various parts of my thinking – in all of those ways that compliment my feminist nature. All of the ways that I grow as a queer thinker, as a racial justice thinker, all of these things are complemented by and compliment my feminist thinking. It’s an ongoing journey.” 

HC: Who are some of your favorite feminist icons? 

RT: “Tavi Gevinson, I just think women in general are awesome. I love Bell Hooks, obviously. How can you not love Bell Hooks? Women. Even women who don’t realize they’re feminists. Like my mom is the most verbally antifeminist person but there are so many things about her that I’m like, you are such a feminist at heart! Going to nursing school at 50. But she would never admit to it. I love Tammy Baldwin, Janet Mock. I have a lot of people that I look up to. I also think it’s really important to look up to ourselves and to look up to the people around us. Sometimes just existing in the world is an accomplishment.” 

HC: What are your favorite things about campus so far? 

RT: “Well, I’ve only been here for two weeks. I would say walking around in the union and there are so many students. I feel like there’s a vibrant student group culture and students are really involved and engaged in general. That’s really awesome to me.” 

HC: What kinds of social justice work have you done in the past? 

RT: “I would say that’s another one of those things that’s a never-ending journey in my life. 

For me, one of the things that I would say is, I like to be sneaky about it. I like to be sneaky social justice when I can. Especially as a mixed-race woman who’s often read as white, I feel 

like I have this weird position where a lot of times, especially in a predominantly white institution like UW Madison, I’d have students who would read me as white and then they’d say stuff in front of me and I’m like, ‘oh, okay, well, let’s um, let’s have a little teachable moment.’ 

A lot of kids in Wisconsin didn’t get a lot of the memos, like, you know, cultural sensitivity. 

This girl, she raised her hand and she’s like, ‘*sigh* I mean, I just wish that they would come up with a list of all the words we’re not allowed to say because it’s like really hard to keep track.’ And I’m just like, okay. So I said, this was a proud moment for me, I think it is important to meet students where they’re at – and to meet ignorant white kids from the middle of nowhere Wisconsin where they’re at – not to shame them, but to try to validate whatever it is they’re feeling. So I was like, “I hear you, I feel the same way sometimes, being socially conscious can be difficult. But, you know, I also think that as humans and as members of a society that I think we have a responsibility to each other to do our best. To stay educated, to try and learn things. If we’re capable of staying on top of what Kim & Kanye’s new baby name is going to be I feel like we can probably stay on top of what culturally sensitive and insensitive terms there are.” 

I like to do social justice work in my daily life. It’s a way of life for me. Yes, I will share articles or go to protests or you know. I’ve worked in restaurants for a long time and I once threatened to quit my job in Madison because they had a salad, they changed the menu and created a new salad that was like Asian inspired and they called it Chinese Yummy Happy Noodle. And I’m like, I go down to my boss’ office and hyperventilate and like so, um, I don’t know how to say this and I’m not trying to be a dick but like, I can’t work here if this salad is here. Not even just as an Asian person! Like, as a human! How would I say that to someone without laughing? Like, it’s so ridiculous. So I’m explaining, I get why you thought it was funny but the reason why it’s funny is because it’s relying on centuries long tradition of making fun of how Asian people speak English and that’s not funny. Even those little moments, standing up for what you believe in moments that matter.” 

HC: What are you most excited about working on for the Women’s Center? 

RT: “I’m really excited about really making the Women’s Center as inclusive as possible; as welcoming as possible. I’m really excited about making new relationships across campus with a lot of different programs. I want this to be a space that a lot of different people feel welcome and part of. I’m really excited to start working on making that happen!” 

HC: Why do you think Women’s Centers are important? 

RT: “I think that Women’s Centers are important for a lot of reasons. I think one is that specifically; gender equality from a lot of different perspectives, gender equality in any context is just not a thing yet. Like, we’re just not there yet as a society. In terms of cisgender issues, transgender issues, genderqueer issues, like, just gender anything, anything that is not cis, white man, is – we’re still fighting. So I think that Women’s Centers in particular can be a really important in fighting against systems of oppression and injustice and fighting because women – woman is a category that can transcend and cross over so many different areas of our lives and identities. Women’s Centers have a really awesome potential to be a unifying space and to be something that if we’re doing it right that can really bring together a lot of different kinds of people.” 

HC: What do you like to do when you’re not at work? 

RT: “I like to lift weights. I have to say Just powerlifting! What else do I like to do? I really like puzzling- it’s super nerdy but I like a good puzzle. And I’m like super into Tsum Tsum right now, it’s a game, it’s like candy crush but with adorable miniature Disney characters. Basically everything from Japan is the best ever. Hang out with my two cats. Aiko baby, she has a little squish face. She’s a tiny little baby. She just loves being held like a baby. My other cat is a girl but her name is Oliver. She’s a little fatty. Oliver does not like being held. She’s weird.” 

HC: Where’s the coolest place you’ve traveled to? 

RT: “Japan! Definitely Japan. Everything! Going there was, being in Japan was like weird spiritual like experience for me because it was my first time going and it was soon after my grandmother had passed away but it’s also just awesome. So it had this personal kind of like, ahhh! I was able to meet her brothers and cousins and stuff for the first time in my life. Also- I really love Amsterdam. It was a lot of fun!” 

HC: Why should students get involved on campus? 

RT: “Because being involved is awesome! Because fun. Because fun things are fun. Getting involved is also important, going to different events, putting yourself out of your comfort zone… I can’t even count how many times something that I’ve… You don’t know what you don’t know until you know it. Putting yourself outside your comfort zone, meeting new people, doing new things is the best way to figure out all of the things that you like and all of the things you want to do. It took me 6 years of being in grad school in English to be like, oh, I want to work in administration! But I wouldn’t have gotten there if I hadn’t done the 6 years in the English thing! It was that whole experience- sometimes you just have to put yourself out there and figure out what you like and what you don’t like through trial and error.” 

HC: What is your advice for the students on campus? 

RT: “My advice would be, come give me advice! Come tell me what you need, what you want. Side note: Also, listen to the Hamilton Soundtrack. Oh my god! Oh my god it is so good you guys. It’s a new Broadway play. The cast is all people of color and the soundtrack is super good.” 

Visit Renee! 

Make sure to stop into the Women’s Center in CSU 218 and chat with her! Renee is also the advisor for the Women’s Center student group, Women of Action Committee. Send her an email or stop into her office. Renee informs us that her office will be the one with “cats all over the place.” 

RT: “Come say hi, I have secret candy stashes in my office.”