Carly Solberg, 21 of Napa, will be graduating with a degree in Women’s and Gender Studies this spring and with a reputation as being hyper-involved on campus. From working in the HUB, becoming president of the Queer Student Alliance and even teaching her own class, Solberg has accomplished much more than securing a degree at Sonoma State. But her most challenging task yet may be saying goodbye, she says.
Transitioning to a new environment hasn’t always been easy for Solberg, who uses a mix of both they, them and she, her pronouns. During their first semester, they said they were in a “dark place” due to a lack of connection and commitments in their day-to-day life. Solberg said she started seeing a counselor in the CAPS department on campus, which she said allowed her to understand the loneliness she would then work to combat. This would be the beginning of Solberg’s journey into involvement at SSU, as they got a job working at the HUB on campus during their first year, a center focused on diversity, vitality and creativity. “It really solidified so many parts of me,” said Solberg, who identifies as trans nonbinary. “The HUB just gave me language to describe the things that were going on around me, and inside my head.”
Solberg would later join and become the president of the Queer Student Alliance on campus and, in her junior year, participated in the school’s production of “The Vagina Monologues”, a multiple skit performance striving to educate and change social attitudes toward violence against women and transgender people. They performed a tear-inducing solo dialogue about their journey in discovering their identity, something Carly’s been working during her four years at Sonoma State. “In many ways, it was a capstone on my time at SSU,” said Solberg.
Even with her involvement in multiple organizations on campus, what really solidified Solberg’s place on campus and her reason for coming to Sonoma State was her major. During their senior year of high school, they decided to sit in on a class at the university. “Carly definitely stood out,” said WGS professor Don Romesburg, who was teaching the senior level class on queer theory Solberg attended. “They were excited and engaged in what we were talking about and had so much knowledge. From there, I hoped they would stay in the major and choose Sonoma State.”
Carly’s time in the department would progress from just learning from professors and to becoming something of a guest professor for a semester. She taught a 13-person one unit, credit no credit course intended to educate students on updated knowledge of trans lives. “Carly stands out as someone who came in passionate and willing to let the major transform them,” said Romesburg. “Carly came to me and said contemporary transgender issues were not represented well and nothing spoke to those issues in a specific way.”
As a result, and with the help of Romesburg, Carly would go on to create, research and lead a class in fall 2018: “Trans Lives in the New Millennium.” “We had really great conversations, and I’m so glad I was able to have the opportunity,” said Solberg.
While Solberg enjoyed her short experience teaching fellow students, she’s unsure of whether it is a career she wants to pursue after graduation. “The wonderful thing about WGS is it’s such a small department that the professors know you so intimately,” said Solberg. “I love watching them teach and facilitate conversations and just make people realize things. My mentors here will always be a part of my life.”
Solberg is currently working in the Transfer and Transition Program on campus, as a staff educator providing lesson plans and other skills to peer mentors who then guide first and second year students through their time at Sonoma State. Solberg said they believe their future is in higher education. “Being on a college campus feeds me and makes me feel whole,” she said. Solberg sees peer mentoring at a university as a way to continue her current work at Sonoma State.
Solberg embraced the common mantra many native North Bay students say when asked why they attended Sonoma State — it provides a full college experience while not being too far from home. While she didn’t go too far from where she grew up in Napa County, Solberg acknowledges it won’t be easy saying goodbye to her second home at Sonoma State. “I’m going to really miss school,” she said. “The second I walk across that stage, it’s going to hit me: ‘Wait, I don’t have class tomorrow?’"