Trilling departs Women’s Center

The Women’s Center’s second-ever director took a position at UNC’s cancer research center


Interim Directoe Erin Adamson welcomes students to the Women’s Center. After taking over for Steph Trilling, Adamson is working hard to ensure the Women’s Center provides the support the campus community has come to expect.

Chase Bagnall Koger, Staff Writer

Women’s Center Director Steph Trilling has stepped down, and Erin Adamson has been named the center’s interim director while the search for a new one proceeds.

After four years working at the Women’s Center, Trilling spent her last day in the office on Oct. 15. She bid farewell to students with special dop-in hours where they shared favorite memories, stories and cake before Trilling departed for her new position at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at UNC.

Trilling describes her new position as a return to her public health roots. Just as her background in dealing with interpersonal violence was focused on behavior prevention, her new job will involve conducting research on cancer prevention.

“It’s going to be less of working with students, which I’m pretty sad about,” Trilling said. “But it will be more of learning about prevention and how we can change people’s behavior to prevent cancer and other harmful outcomes.”

“My role will involve less working with students, which I’m pretty sad about,” Trilling said. “But it will involve more learning about prevention and how we can change behavior to prevent cancer and other harmful outcomes.”

Trilling first joined the Wake Forest staff in 2017 as director of the SAFE Office, a confidential service for students who have experienced any form of interpersonal violence.

Trilling also taught WGS 397, an internship course with PREPARE, a sexual assault advocacy group on campus.

“Teaching was one of the first ways I got to interact with students on campus, and it was really wonderful,” Trilling said.

After working closely with the Women’s Center and the SAFE Office, the Center appointed Trilling as their director in summer 2019 when the inaugural director, Dr. Paige Melter, left the position. Trilling, immediately after taking over, identified the need to institute discussions centered around gender identity and foster inclusivity in the Women’s Center.

“Students would tell me, ‘this is such a great space and we love it, but other people don’t really know about it,’” Trilling said. “People don’t use it and they have a negative association with the word “feminism.’”

To create connections with new groups of students, Trilling launched G-Chat, a monthly drop-in in which students share snacks and talk about issues related to gender on campus. The Center also launched the Wake for Women program to encourage more students to attend women’s athletic events.

During the COVID-19  pandemic, the Center began to offer online skill-building workshops to help students who were navigating new financial or family situations. One such program, the Financial Empowerment Series, was a six-week series that taught students about budgeting, saving, investing and how gender norms affect finance. That particular program is being offered again this semester.

Last year, the Center also launched programming that centers around detoxifying masculinity.

Social work intern Peter Reeds worked alongside Trilling to develop a space for men to “discuss the messages they have received growing up about masculinity and how these affect their personal relationships.”

“We have a graduate assistant this year who is going to start offering weekly men and masculinity drop-in hours,” Trilling said. “He’s already getting a lot of requests from fraternities to come do workshops with them about healthy masculinity.”

In Trilling’s absence, Erin Adamson will be standing in as interim director to keep the Center’s ongoing initiatives running while the search for a new director gets underway. 

Adamson has served as assistant director since Nov. 2019, organizing the “student-facing arm” of the program, which includes the on-campus feminist leadership group, organizing Wake for Women tailgates and teaching WGS 121, Feminist Leadership.

As interim director, Adamson will take on the Women’s Center’s “advocacy work.” Some of the additional responsibilities she will assume include supporting faculty and staff through a self-care program called “Wake Up with the Women’s Center” and running a monthly caregiver support group.

“There is a lot of caregiver advocacy, and the Women’s Center is part of that,” Adamson said. “The support group brings together people who are parents and those who might be caring for another type of caregiver.”

Changes in leadership of the Women’s Center are expected within the next few months. Until then, Adamson will be working to ensure that students and staff will still receive all the support they have come to expect from the Center.