By Asta Rossi
On September 25, L. Mattson officially started their position as new SHARE director here at Reed. The Quest reached out to Mattson for an interview to talk about their background and experiences alongside their goals for the program.
Mattson’s career path in sexual health education stemmed from their interest in how relationships function both on a personal and systemic level. “I see sexual health as a site of potential social justice or injustice, so it’s another route to get there. There is no social justice without sexual health and vice versa,” says Mattson. “The general sexual health promotion and violence prevention aspects of this role in particular, I’m really glad to see that Reed has them in the same role. Like, okay, we can talk about how to have healthy relationships and set healthy norms for ourselves, while also working towards preventing violence.”
“I was looking at sexual health jobs in Oregon because I’m coming from Missouri,” they continued. “I moved to Oregon knowing that this is one of the states that has more comprehensive sexual health standards. And in Missouri, it’s a lot less comprehensive, more abstinence—more like it’s not even comprehensive.”
“I want to talk about what sexual health is versus like I have to find ways to speak about it in euphemism,” continued Mattson, “I see most of my role on campus is giving permission to talk about sex and the pleasures and the harms that it can bring, how they’re experiencing it.”
Mattson expressed how they saw Reed as student-centered and student-driven as soon as they arrived on campus. “I’m seeing that the students are really there for the students and uplifting each other’s voices. There is no forward motion of anything without the student voice in my mind,” explained Mattson. “The students are the pulse of everything. And that’s just so exciting to me, because those discussions are what I think are the most important, because this is your school that you are at, and too [the student voice is] often most neglected because it’s easy for institutions to go off of policy, because I know listening takes time. And there’s a slowing down effect that can occur when we really listen and change can happen,” Mattson explains. “Seeing where I fit into that at Reed will be one of my major integration steps. Where’s my ear most wanted? And where can I filter the voice up?”
While Mattson was not originally aware of the reasons for the previous directors’ resignation, they responded to some statements from previous Quest articles of Rowan Frost’s concerns about the lack of administrative support and protection of survivors. To Mattson, it seemed that Frost was, “someone who is very on the ground with what survivors are saying, and being just really attuned to that. I’m seeing her passion for her work.” They remark that they are “touched” by Frost’s ability to recognize when her goals no longer aligned with the position she was working in. “That gives me context for what the students might be feeling from the institution,” continues Mattson. “And that tells me that it’ll be on me to really listen and see what that feeling of ‘maybe that [support] isn’t here’ and how I can tap into that to get more information and use that information for how I operate in the office.”
One key aspect of their role is connecting the students already working in the SHARE program with the resources they need while also providing confidential advocacy. “I’m seeing my role as their supervisor as, like, what are you seeing the needs are on campus? Who is it that I need to be sending the emails to make sure those needs are being met with supplies, or how can I help you schedule things — really letting them take the lead and I’m just the supervisor.” Mattson goes on to say, “I’m a resource for students to come to if they’re wanting a confidential advocate to speak to, whether that’s like, ‘I have a question about this,’ ‘well, I’ve had this experience that I have questions with what I want to do with that experience.’ I can present the options that are available, whether that’s ‘I want a timeline process’ or ‘I just want to talk about it right now and cry a little bit,’ and let me cry with you.”
Mattson also would like to expand some of the current offerings of the SHARE program. “I’m hoping to run a lot of programs that students would want, and I’m wanting to do some more sexual health based workshops,” they explained. They also would like to make resources more accessible to students, introduce drop-in hours, and potentially bring back peer sexual health educators. “I’m feeling the impulse to do it all at once, but I know these things take time,” clarified Mattson. “And I’m giving myself grace to let them take time so that I can do it sustainably and that the students can access it sustainably rather than going in all at once and just putting things that I think are okay up. I’m wanting to do things that are well and good and sustainable.” Mattson revealed that drop in hours may begin in mid-October and hopes for some new events and resources to be made available for the students. They are excited to begin their work at Reed and look forward to connecting with students and student-life on campus.