In addition to its move from 24 College Street to Ladd House this fall, the Sexuality, Women and Gender (SWAG) Center is welcoming a new face: newly-minted director Natalie Turrin.
Turrin, originally from Toronto, Canada, completed her doctorate at Emory University before working there in the Office of LGBT life and later serving as the Associate Director of the Center for Women. Last year, she moved to Maine to teach as a Visiting Professor of Women and Gender Studies at the University of Southern Maine before coming to Bowdoin this summer.
Turrin is excited to now work at a smaller institution and experience the tight-knit nature of the Bowdoin community.
“I’m really excited to think about the community that’s already here and how I can sort of work to build that community, help that community grow and see its fullest potential.… In the few weeks that I’ve been here it’s really clear to me that [Bowdoin has] really engaged and activated students,” Turrin said.
Turrin acknowledged that students face many challenges throughout their time in college, and she hopes that SWAG can be a place where students feel safe in their identity and seek out the resources provided. Many of her interactions with students take the form of one-on-one support and guidance with issues of gender and sexuality. Turrin emphasized, however, that SWAG is also a place to celebrate diverse identities and should encourage self-expression.
“Sometimes people who hold these identities go through really hard stuff,” Turrin said. “But there’s also lots of calls for celebration and community building. I think that honoring our history—honoring our stories—is another role of a place like SWAG.”
Turrin also hopes SWAG can be a catalyst for community activism on campus.
“There’s tremendous potential in identity and cultural spaces in terms of helping students turn that motivation and activation into work and transformation,” Turrin said.
While SWAG was created as a safe space for women and LGBTQ+ people on campus, Turrin wants students to know that all are welcome and encouraged to participate in events regardless of their gender identity and sexuality.
Turrin plans to host a myriad of events throughout the year to continue current engagement with the SWAG community and garner student feedback for future initiatives. In addition to new programming, she will continue hosting beloved campus events like weekly ‘Quinners’ (queer dinners). The SWAG center will also hold weekly drop-in sessions in their new office space in Ladd House.
“The plan for the first semester is really to get to know the students—what you all want, what you need, what you would like to see, what you want to see changed. [I want to] meet you where you are and learn more about you,” Turrin said.
Turrin is excited to finally have students back on campus and begin connecting with the community.
“The reason [SWAG is] here is to serve and support you and help you realize the campus that you dream of, that best supports you and that helps you do the work you want to do, not only here, but when you’re no longer here,” Turrin said.
SWAG will host an open house on Wednesday in the Ladd House living room for students to get to know Turrin and SWAG.
“There are a lot of people here on campus who are here to support you,” Turrin said. “SWAG is here to support all students.”