By Lauren Bly, Women’s Center Correspondent
When I stepped into Erin Duran’s office in Stine Hall, I was immediately greeted by a striking sense of positivity and friendliness. As he laughed about how he escaped the Southern accent that characterizes his family in Dallas, Texas, Duran’s openness and understanding quickly eradicated the momentary awkwardness that often characterizes the first few minutes of an interview.
Duran is new to Gettysburg College as he was recently hired as both a Residence Life Coordinator and the LGBTQA Advisor (a new position at the College), but he is familiar with the liberal arts environment. “I am not new to small school rural,” he joked while telling me about his alma mater, Grinnell College, a selective liberal arts college in Iowa.
While at Grinnell, he earned a BA in Sociology with a concentration in Gender and Women’s Studies and he then went on to Pennsylvania State University to get his Master of Education degree in College Student Affairs.
Duran emphasized that at Grinnell there was an empowering and invigorating sense of “self-governance” where students “controlled their own experiences” and “actively shaped the community,” only receiving support from administration when it was absolutely necessary. Grinnell’s philosophy of student leadership, paired with Erin’s active involvement in student affairs, prepared him for life in the workplace and he is confident that those skills will continue to guide him here at Gettysburg.
When asked about the position of LGBTQA Advisor, Duran said that his job is comprised of four prongs. One of those prongs is formal administration as he serves as the advisor to ALLies and ALLies House. He is also available for one-on-one meetings with students to answer questions, though he is not a counselor. In addition, he is always working on independent programming. Lastly, he acts as a support system for targeted LBGTQA students involved in bias-related incidences.
Duran emphasized that is important to have “institutional resources in place” for all students, especially those who are exploring identity and sexuality, and to be aware that there is a “diverse array of experiences” for each student in college. Shifting from his conservative home life in Texas to the more liberal atmosphere at Grinnell, Duran understands that college is often the first opportunity for students to explore and figure out who they are. He is especially interested in looking at “where race, gender and sexuality intersect” because he is “passionate about bringing those worlds together.”
While Duran is eager to facilitate conversations and improve student life at Gettysburg, he is adamant about getting to know the school better before he provides any constructive criticism. Right now, he is taking some time to observe the community as he works with and learns from student leaders. “Institutionally, we’re doing whatever we can to help student leaders with their excellent work,” said Duran. “Gettysburg is very clear in valuing diversity and striving to be as equitable and inclusive as possible.” He hopes to use his positivity and creativity to strengthen those values during his time here.
Duran will also be giving The Women’s Center’s first lunch lecture: “Expanding the All in ALLies.” The lecture will be in CUB 260 at 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 27. Duran is currently filling out a Campus Climate Assessment survey on behalf of the College to see how LGBTQA-friendly Gettysburg actually is, as opposed to how it appears to be. He plans to share his findings at his lecture.
As Duran said, “Gettysburg has been doing a lot of things well.” As I left his office, I thought about his closing statement and the people that are clearly passionate about helping students create a nonjudgmental, open environment focused on learning, growth and understanding; I wholeheartedly agreed.