Name: Naomi Simmons

Hometown: I’m from a tiny town called Milford, Pennsylvania, that sits right on the Delaware River in the Pocono Mountains. You could get to New York or New Jersey in less than 10 minutes and I loved growing up surrounded by mountains and the woods but still with easy access to New York City.

Education/Background: Although I started college as a geology major (I love science!), I ended up earning my B.A. in sociology from Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, and then moved to South Carolina, where I earned my M.A. and then Ph.D. in sociology from the University of South Carolina.

Job title: Director, Gender and Sexuality Equity Center

How long have you worked at the College? 1 year and 3 months!

What are your job responsibilities? Right now my primary focus is on running the newly opened Campus Pride Center at 9 ½ Glebe St. I work with a number of student employees, interns, honors engaged students and plenty of volunteers to provide programs, services and resources that enhance the wellbeing of our diverse LGBTQ+ community. I’m also getting the newly created Q’nversations Program, which is replacing the Safe Zone Training program, up and running and conducting the annual Campus Pride Index.

What do you like most about your job? I love that I get to provide so many things for our LGBTQ+ students that I never had when I was in college. I think nurturing community and empowering our campus to expand their understanding of gender expressions and sexual orientations is more important than ever, and I love that I get to work with so many other dedicated people and offices to build a sense of belonging for young people and for me, too! It’s been a wonderful experience to get to show up professionally as my full authentic self alongside my students.

What question do you get asked most in your job and what’s your typical answer? “What do I do if I don’t know someone’s gender or pronouns?”

  1. You can always use they/them/theirs. –> “They’re so good at calculus, I would definitely ask them to tutor you before the test.”
  2. Ask! It’s perfectly OK to ask someone what pronouns they would like you to use when referring to them. –> “Hi, my name is Naomi and I like people to use she/her when referring to me. What pronouns would you like me to use when I am referring to you?”
  3. Use their name! This is the easiest and most often overlooked option. –> “Erica is a great friend. You would really get along with Erica,  and I think you should meet us at the restaurant later.”

What’s your favorite location on campus and why? Well, I’m biased but I LOVE the Pride Center. It’s so full of queer joy and friendship, it’s very inspiring. When I’m looking to get out of the office, though, I love to be anywhere outside! I enjoy popping over to Stern Center Garden or relaxing at Rivers Green, and I try to get up and move my body and do a lap around the Cistern whenever I can.

What are your hobbies? I am an avid reader. My current Goodreads goal is 100 books for this year, and I’m almost there! I also love to play Animal Crossing. It’s such a great escape to a happy little island where I have all the control and nothing goes wrong!

What personal and/or professional accomplishment are you most proud of? Getting this job. Before coming to CofC I was an associate professor of sociology. Although I loved so much of what I was able to do in that role, there was more I wanted to do directly in spaces of equity and belonging. I took a huge leap of faith and trusted in myself in a way I never had before when I interviewed for this position. I’m proud every day for allowing myself to dream and for finding a new way to do the work I’m so passionate about at a campus I love.

Name a creative work (book, movie, performance, etc.) you enjoyed recently and why? There are so many! I am a huge science fiction fan, and my favorite author is Octavia Butler. I’m currently two books into the Xenogenesis series, and it’s so wonderfully creepy and thoughtful and scary and captivating. My wife and I also took our daughter to see the Taylor Swift Eras Tour movie recently and it was an incredible experience!

What was your favorite TV show growing up? Friends. Hands down. We’ve been rewatching it with our kids and it’s so fun to see them laugh and enjoy the characters like we did!

What’s next on your bucket list? I am dying to get out on the water in a kayak or on a paddle board!

What is something your campus colleagues would be surprised to know about you? I play multiple instruments – piano, violin, cello and viola.

What was your first job? I worked the grill during the morning shift at McDonald’s when I was 16. I have cracked thousands of eggs in my lifetime!!

What’s your favorite Lowcountry restaurant? I love the Swamp Fox Restaurant at the Francis Marion Hotel. It’s the best salmon I’ve ever had!

Describe your perfect day: Waking up without an alarm clock and taking my time with a book, a coffee and my wife’s company on the back porch listening to the sounds of our pond – and no children fighting!

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