Beloved psychology professor Sarina Saturn leaves UP

Few people can say they are more connected to The Bluff than Associate Professor of Psychological Sciences Sarina Saturn.

His parents – both UP alumni – met through the UP International Club, and Saturn grew up in University Park, making regular visits to campus. Years later, she found herself at UP as a teacher, and over the past seven years she has been involved with many clubs, groups, and steering committees.

“It has been a true honor to provide intersectional emotional care and to recognize how much people here on campus, especially students, need more spaces where they feel welcome and affirmed, and they can provide a treatment and a cure,” Saturn said. “And so it’s been really rewarding.”

Despite this, Saturn never felt like she fully belonged in UP, which is why her decision to leave UP at the end of January was so difficult for her.

“I think the only reason I’ve touched the students so much is because I’ve seen how harmful it can be to walk into an environment where you feel out of place,” Saturn said.

Saturn reports that she often felt ignored when raising diversity, inclusion and mental health issues with the administration.

This decision came with strong emotions – be it grief, love, anger, release or anything in between.

Theology professor Simon Aihiokhai, who became acquainted with Saturn when he served on the Presidential Advisory Committee for Inclusion and the Ethnic Studies Research Committee, believes Saturn has changed the landscape of the University forever. , helping to make it a more diverse, welcoming and inclusive place.

“They may not know her name, but the legacy will always remember her,” Aihiokhai said. “She was one of those agents who brought about social transformation in this university.”

“She called on the University, especially the College of Arts and Sciences, to take diversity training seriously in hiring faculty members,” Aihiokhai added. “…It has yielded a lot of positive fruits in less than two years since the beginning. We have hired a good number of diverse teachers, which would never have been the case before.

When Saturn started as a professor at UP in 2015, she didn’t expect to do so much advocacy work, but she quickly realized that her unique connection to The Bluff, her experiences as a woman of color, and her emotional psychology training allowed him to quickly connect and empathize with many students.

“I grew up in this culture and I know why students were suffering,” Saturn said. “I knew exactly what needed to change in order to provide more advocacy, affirmation and healing. And so it’s been amazing, I think it’s probably the highlight of my career doing this work with students.

Saturn grew up a few blocks from campus.

This desire to make UP more equitable and inclusive clearly resonated with the students she worked with, as she quickly connected with many QTBIPOC and feminist students, faculty and staff.

Saturn played many roles for the students she worked closely with: teacher, counselor, friend, mentor and, when needed, a shoulder to cry on.

“Even though she’s older and wiser than all of us, she never puts you down or makes you feel stupid or anything like that,” said Kristen Kaliban, co-chair of Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA). “She’s so collaborative, and I really always liked and appreciated that about her because that’s not always the case, especially with clubs that deal with more sensitive topics.”

When Active Minds president Kaylee Menefee joined the club’s board of directors last year, she had an idea: “You’re going to love this, especially because Dr. Saturn is now your best friend.

“And it really is, honestly,” Menefee said.

One of the main reasons Saturn was able to have such an impact was its ability to connect different areas of campus with each other.

“The great thing about working with (Saturn) on one thing is that she’s working on so many things at once and every time she starts something new she’s like, ‘Do you want to be involved in this?'” Menefee said.

“She is only the official advisor to two clubs on campus, but she is unofficially the advisor to all of the diversity clubs,” Menefee continued. “She’s where everyone goes when they need help with a finance application or booking a room, really anything.”

Active Minds President Kaylee Menefee speaks to students gathered at the Intersectional Justice Expo.

As a colleague, Saturn’s zeal and passion rubbed off on those she worked with.

“I’m different because of my work with Sarina,” said associate professor of philosophy Alejandro Santana. “I hope I had the same effect on her that way. I am a better person. I am a much more thoughtful person.

“I consider her a very respectable colleague, a sincere and genuine person to make a difference, no matter how hard these transformative differences demand of us, because it’s not easy,” Aihiokhai added.

Saturn’s decision to leave UP stemmed from her realization that when she returned from the upcoming gap semester, it would not be in an environment where she felt respected and recognized, Saturn said.

Saturn, who earned a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from New York University, has done postdoctoral work at Columbia University, Stanford University and University of California – Berkeley. His specialty is the neuroscience of emotions, and his to research has been featured in publications such as New York Times, National Public Broadcasting (NPR) Science Friday and American scientific mind.

One of Saturn’s biggest disappointments at UP was that her offers to teach classes in the neuroscience minor were met with resistance, she said.

Another discouraging setback was the flooding of Buckley’s basement which destroyed his research on intergenerational trauma, healing, and post-traumatic growth. Because Buckley’s basement has a history of flooding, Saturn was dismayed that the University had not taken steps to mitigate the problem.

Saturn also pointed to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work on campus, which often fell to faculty, staff, and students without the full support of administration, he said. she declared.

“It’s just like this uphill battle,” Saturn said. “And I’m honestly so exhausted from pushing those rocks up.”

Saturn is one of many female faculty and staff to leave the institution in the past year, including several women of color.

“It’s a unique case, but at the same time it seems to speak to a pattern at UP of strong women in positions, whether they’re staff, faculty, or administration, and then they leave because they’re so fed up with how they’re being treated,” Santana said.

“Not feeling like you’re not valued that way hurts,” Santana added. “It’s understandable that people don’t want to be here anymore. So I really think it’s important for all of us to think about it very carefully and very deeply.

Acting university president and provost Herbert Medina declined to comment on Saturn’s departure, according to an email from vice president of marketing and communications Michael Lewellen.

“Unfortunately, it is not customary for a university president or provost to comment on departures of employees who are not retirements, nor on departures precipitated by moves to leadership positions in other other institutions,” Lewellen said in his email.

Simon Aihiokhai worries about how Saturn’s big shoes will fill.

Because Saturn, with his knowledge of UP, his personal relationships with students, and his background in the psychology of emotions, was uniquely positioned to help foster change on campus, Aihiokhai worries about who will occupy the Vacancy.

“Who’s going to continue all these things she’s done?” Aihiokhai said. “It’s like someone just died in front of you, that’s how I felt about (his leaving).”

Senior Isaiah Saluta believes Saturn’s legacy in forging connections between different corners of UP working to create DEI change will be picked up and continued by students.

“I hope the students know that just because she’s leaving doesn’t mean there won’t be a change,” Saluta said. “Students will continue to fill this void and students will continue to build community and create networks of opportunity so that we can all uplift each other.”

“Let’s hope so,” Santana said. “There’s a huge amount of inertia here and so it really takes somebody pushing, moving, cajoling, dragging, encouraging, I mean everything, all at the same time to reverse that inertia. And so the task now lies everyone to help pick up the slack in this way. It’s a really big loss.”

Students gather on the Academic Quad for an exhibition and celebration of intersectional justice.

On January 28, approximately 30 students, faculty and staff gathered in the academic quad to celebrate Saturn and the progress she has cultivated during her time at UP, in addition to reaffirming that – even with the departure of Saturn – the work and progress will not stop with her.

Although Saturn isn’t sure what’s next, she’s eager to catch up on rest, relaxation, and recuperation.

Despite everything Saturn had to go through, her time here was worth it, she said. She hopes her actions and work at UP have helped shape and strengthen the progress of the institution where her parents met.

“I have no regrets,” Saturn said. “It was completely worth it. It was a fight for love and I think we have made great progress here. I hope people realize that the fire can continue to burn.

William Seekamp is the editor and managing editor of The Beacon. He can be reached at [email protected].

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