Tong Fei starts as new sexologist

by Alyssa Mehra | 5/25/16 5:32pm

Tong Fei has just started her position as the healthy relationships and sexual health specialist, a new role created within the Health and Wellness Center. In the position, she will take over the Sexperts, a sexual health peer education program on campus, and develop programs encouraging healthy relationships, assistant director for violence prevention Amanda Childress said.

The Sexperts program is currently inactive because the students on campus that have been trained already do not have a full time advisor, Childress said. One of Fei’s goals is to restart up the program in the fall. Fei is currently writing the curriculum for the training program, and the center hopes to start recruiting students in the summer to be trained.

Fei will be working to make sure that people are not only thinking about sex and sexuality, but also about how they can have other healthy relationships with friends or family, Thriving Together intern Deidra Nesbeth ’16 said. Thriving Together is a peer advising and support group run by the Health and Wellness Center.

Fei is listed as a private resource for students and will be available for counseling, but it will not be her major focus.

“If her full focus is just responding to concerns as opposed to developing more of a landscape around prevention and holistic wellness areas, then she’s just going to be responding, and we’re never going get ahead of the game,” Childress said.

The position was created in hopes of bringing the positive side of healthy relationships and sexual health information to campus, Fei said.

“We are trying to make my position for the larger community,” Fei said.Fei added that she wants to help students gain communication skills that will help them navigate their college life and encourage a campus culture where people are having healthy relationships.

“Because I was a student not too long ago, I want to provide and contribute my skills to this campus and help create a more healthy campus in general by using my expertise,” Fei said.

Communications skills, such as understanding the definition of consent, are imperative for the social wellbeing of college students and are often not taught in the classroom, Fei said.

“Having someone whose whole focus is on having a way to talk about healthy sexuality, rather than just talk about sexuality and the way we react as something that’s responsive, is necessary to shift a culture towards a culture where healthy relationships is the norm,” Nesbeth said.

Before Fei, there was a position within the Health and Wellness Center that focused on general wellness in addition to sexual health and healthy relationships. The new position was created to specifically focus on healthy relationships and sexual health because of the conversations surrounding violence prevention in the last year, Childress said.

Nesbeth added that Fei wants to include other resources on campus when talking about wellness. The position will focus on not just prevention and response work but also defining what a healthy relationship looks like, Nesbeth said.

“There is a conflation of healthy relationships and sexual violence and the ways we talk about these things and that means that we’re not necessarily talking about healthy relationships before we get to negative situations. Instead it’s a reaction,” Nesbeth said.

Fei noted that Dartmouth’s D-plan brings up the issue of how to deal with long term and long distance relationships.

“We need to start this conversation and normalize it to make it more human,” Fei said.

Fei grew up in China where she says there was very limited sexual education. She then moved to the United States in order to complete her undergraduate education at the University of Missouri at Columbia. After graduating, she attended Washington University in St. Louis to receive her masters in social work.

Nesbeth said that besides how knowledgeable Fei is, her relatability makes a great fit for the position because she will be working with students often.

“She’s super intentional about the way in which she uses language which is super important in order to make a lot of people feel comfortable and sharing information,” Nesbeth said.

Nesbeth said Fei is invested in understanding student culture, especially as she was recently a student herself.

“Fresh out of graduate school, I got my dream job. It’s especially exciting because its such a specific field,” Fei said.

The Health and Wellness Center was looking for someone who had a strong background in sexual health and healthy relationships, as well as background knowledge in the research and evidence relating to the work happening on campus relating to sexual assault. They also wanted someone who had good personal skills who could work with a campus community, as most of the work would mostly involve students, Childress said.

“The office in the student wellness center focuses a lot on putting theory into practice,” Childress said. “If students are struggling with a relationship, that plays a huge role in their ability to feel successful in the classroom and to be able to function and learn. We’re looking at not just their physical wellness, but their emotional, their intellectual, their social, their spiritual wellness.”