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The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

Student news without fear or favor

Beyond the books: A Sac State librarian’s significant impact on campus

Antonia Peigahi’s perspective on education, social justice and intersectionality
Mahrukh Siddiqui
Humanities and child development librarian Ántonia Peigahi at Sac State stands by the User Services desk at the University Library Tuesday, March 26, 2024. Though Peigahi’s office is located in the library, she spends most of her time interacting with colleagues and students while on campus.

Ántonia Peigahi, Sacramento State’s humanities and child development librarian, said her life would be radically different without education.

“My philosophy is that education is a liberatory practice,” Peigahi said. “Education really allows us to be change-makers within our own lives.”

Peigahi said she believes that education has the potential to move an individual beyond the path predetermined by their circumstances, family or society.

Peigahi has held multiple jobs and leadership roles, such as faculty senate chair, parliamentarian and a position in the office of the president, throughout her 21 years at the university. She earned Sac State’s Women of Influence award in 2020.

Andrea Terry, assistant professor of rhetoric and graduate faculty in communication studies, praised Peigahi as a perfect example of a leader who champions students and fellow faculty over herself.

“The best leaders are the leaders that not only are able to put themselves out there, but also work behind the scenes in order to lift up and push other people forward,” Terry said. “I think she 100% does that.”

Peigahi’s background reveals the roots of her commitment to social justice and education.

Peigahi was born in Iran and at the age of three, immigrated with her family to the United States, where they settled in Eugene, Oregon. Peigahi said she often felt isolated and marginalized due to her ethnic identity.

“It wasn’t one that often rewarded having a diverse identity,” Peigahi said. “I didn’t feel seen and sometimes, even with my dear friends, I didn’t feel welcomed.”

Peigahi’s pursuit of education allowed her to leave Eugene for Portland, earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree and establish a career in academia. She received a job offer from Sac State and moved to California in 2003.

Sac State’s diverse campus population was particularly appealing to Peigahi.

“It was exciting to know that I was coming to a place that honored and celebrated diversity,” Peigahi said.

Sujatha Moni, chair of Sac State’s women’s and gender studies department, attested to Peigahi’s commitment to serving students through social justice.

“We are always advocating for people of color,” Moni said. “There were some of us who had been championing the need for more diverse faculty on our campus and inclusion of students of color, and I found Ántonia was also of similar interests.”

Moni said that Peigahi’s dedication to serving the campus community is admirable, especially when she made the decision to step down from her role within the Office of the President to focus more on social justice work.

When Peigahi stepped down from her role in the president’s office, she returned to the library as the communication studies librarian.

Excited that Peigahi was now the librarian for her department, Terry asked her colleague if she would come speak to her classes.

“She came in and had a whole presentation that was tailored to the projects the students were working on,” Terry said. “They loved it. They really enjoyed their time with her, and I know some of them went and met with her afterwards.”

While she’s certainly dedicated to students, Peigahi also champions her fellow faculty members.

RELATED: The Women’s Resource Center provides students a sanctuary

Terry’s favorite memory of Peigahi is marching on the picket line together during the California Faculty Association strikes in December and January.

“She was a picket captain over on J Street and she was marching that little circle all day long with her whistle and her sign,” Terry said. “She’s just so dedicated and committed to resourcing our faculty better.”

When Peigahi was faculty senate chair in 2018, she came out as transgender. She has faced instances of discrimination and harassment because of this, but colleagues like Moni and Terry have embraced and supported her.

“Uniformly, it was my female colleagues who embraced me, who accepted me, who have seen me,” Peigahi said. “It felt like a step into my community, in a community where I could be seen for who I am.”

These accepting colleagues, like Moni and Terry, acknowledge Peigahi for who she is.

“We do not draw distinctions among cisgender and trans women,” Moni said. “We see them as women.”

Moni said she sees Peigahi’s accomplishments as a win for female representation.

“I see Ántonia as our representative, as one of us, and someone who represents us better than I could,” Moni said. “That’s the way I see her accomplishments. And hers is a voice that is being heard and needs to be further amplified.”

While both Terry and Moni emphasized the importance of not tokenizing people of marginalized identities, they both acknowledged the significance of Peigahi providing trans representation on campus.

“I personally have noticed that in academia, there isn’t a ton of representation of trans women,” Terry said. “Ántonia is an amazing example of a trans person who has been able to serve in a number of positions across campus.”

Moni said that Peigahi serves as inspiration for LGBTQ+ students or those who are wrestling with their identity.

Terry and Moni describe Peigahi as a knowledgeable scholar, an equitable leader, a dedicated activist and a devoted mother and friend.

“I always describe myself as a woman who happens to be transgender,” Peigahi said. “Being trans doesn’t define who I am. What defines who I am, hopefully, is my role as an educator, my role as a mother, my role as a citizen, both on this campus as well as within the community. Those kinds of things as opposed to my transition.”

There are days that are more difficult than others in terms of feeling a sense of acceptance, according to Peigahi. Peigahi said that she has come to a place where she is comfortable with who she is.

“I don’t have things to prove at this point,” Peigahi said. “The people that matter most to me in my world see me as I am, which is what really matters.”

However, Peigahi said there needs to be broader societal acceptance of the trans community.

“It’s not about singling a certain population out,” Peigahi said. “It’s about saying everyone deserves basic rights, and deserves basic respect, needs to be seen for who they are, needs to be loved and respected for who they are.”

In the meantime, Peigahi seeks to live as her authentic self.

“Trans women are women. Trans men are men. We are who we say we are,” Peigahi said. “That’s how we live our best lives, regardless of how society perceives us.”

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About the Contributor
Micah Yip
Micah Yip, News Staffer
(he/him) Micah Yip is a DEI staffer for The State Hornet. He is a political science/journalism major and is working towards a career in political journalism. Micah is passionate about advocating for positive change through his work and is driven by his firm belief in journalism’s power to uncover truth, expose injustices and shed light on issues that demand attention. Micah has previously written for pop culture news websites CBR and Goalcast.
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