The Women’s Center announced its new Associate Director of Women, Gender and Sexual Equity on Aug. 30. The new hire, Viviana Valle Gomez, spoke with the Nexus about their work so far and goals for the 2023-24 school year.
Valle Gomez completed their undergraduate education at the University of California, Davis with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and gender, sexuality and women’s studies as well as a minor in Chicana/o studies before getting their master of arts in American studies with an emphasis in sexuality and gender from Columbia University.
They are currently a third-year doctoral student in the feminist studies department at UC Santa Barbara and said they found a way to pursue their passion for women’s issues through their research on student sex workers.
“I primarily look at women of colors’ experience within sex work as students, as tuition prices continue to increase and wages continue to stay stagnant,” Valle Gomez said. “How this particular type of labor is the most useful for them during their time at university and the ways that universities as well as society in general should be able to support sex workers.”
Their prior experience in mutual aid work and being involved with activist groups in college motivated their interest in women’s issues focused around students. According to Valle Gomez, both their research and their work with the Women’s Center gives them a platform to connect with young people.
“My research does inspire my work because although here I’m working with the larger student population, my research is a very hyper-specific focus on a certain community of students,” Valle Gomez said. “At the end of the day, both have the same objective and it’s to provide the adequate resources so that students are living healthy, fulfilling, safe lives, and I think that is what channels everything that I do.”
Having worked at the Women’s Center for two years as a student employee, Valle Gomez said they are now happy to step back and support students in their pursuits to form communities and build movements as the associate director.
“I’m here in a support role in order to provide an educational background. To put on programming, one of my main roles is to help the programmers put on events for the campus, and they’re all very cool because they come from personal interest,” Valle Gomez said. “So we’re tackling feminist issues and gender-based issues that we all experience … we’re hopefully giving students the tools they need to have those conversations and create plans and strategies to combat that.”
Valle Gomez expressed their admiration for the various student-led events organized by the Women’s Center, which aim to provide a space for people to explore feminist thinking and consciousness.
“We have plenty of cool events this quarter that focus on why there’s a history of criminalizing women’s friendships or the ways that creative writing can be a method of resistance,” Valle Gomez said. “These are all ideas that students are bringing forward, and I am just happy to promote them and their great ideas.”
In collaboration with the Women’s Center, Valle Gomez created a feminist book club that spotlights a new book each month for members to read and discuss. They said a goal of the book club is to allow students who have never formally studied feminism to explore topics which they otherwise would not have learned.
“One of the things that has really brought a community together is the feminist book club which I started almost two years ago, and it slowly has built a following of people who are always excited to hear what this quarter’s book is. Being in a place together to discuss the reading that maybe you didn’t have an opportunity to read in your classes,” Valle Gomez said.
Their main hope for the year is for more students to drop by the Women’s Center to take advantage of the resources there as well as to partake in the events they hold to support women.
“I would love for the campus community and [Isla Vista] residents to take advantage of the various reproductive resources that we have: condoms, pads, tampons, dental dams and lubes,” Valle Gomez said. “Also, the space itself is a place to decompress or study or eat lunch with your friends or take a meeting with a group. We’re always happy to have a buzzing community when we’re open.”
A version of this article appeared on p. 3 of the Oct. 19, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.