State college campuses create centers of support and connection

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As a way to support the LGBTQ+ community on campus, area colleges and universities have a variety of support groups, student clubs and resources available to students. 

Quinnipiac University

At Quinnipiac University, the Gender Sexuality Alliance is a student-run organization that serves as a safe space for students who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies. Along with support, the alliance educates students on issues facing the LGBTQ community. 

“I think that GSA gives a lot of young adults experience in LGBTQ+ culture because they’re away from their families for the first time,” said Mary Vidallon, GSA president. “It’s kind of a new space where (students) can feel safe and step into finding themselves especially being alone and independent. I think the club offers that in a way.” 

Before COVID-19, the GSA held in-person events and activities. However, meetings and events were via Zoom this past year. 

“I feel like COVID-19 really changed things, but I feel like we still found a way to have fun events,” said Athena Cuttle, past president of GSA. “We’ll have game nights, sometimes we’ll have more educational meetings depending on holidays or other things happening within the week and just do different things to make sure everyone has a safe space and a comfortable place to come spend time with friends.” 

Cuttle also worked with the university to create gender inclusive housing options for the 2021-22 school year and Vidallon expressed optimism that more initiatives can be put in place for the LGBTQ+ community on campus. 

“I know Athena has made a ton of strides especially including gender inclusive housing,” Vidallon said. “... Even more accessibility for LGBTQ+ students and maybe opening more gender inclusive bathrooms or maybe opening a women or LGBTQ center would be ideal in the next steps...” 

University of Connecticut

The Rainbow Center at the University of Connecticut is one of five cultural centers on campus, with the “mission to operate in the service of a more equitable world for all students, faculty and staff,” according to its website. 

It officially opened in September 1998 and provides resources and services to the UConn community. 

One program is the FAMILEE mentoring program, which stands for Fostering Academics, Maturity, Independence, Leadership, Empowerment & Excellence.

It “pairs new first-year students and second-year students with continuing students for participation in one-on-one meetings and larger group events. This program is designed to assist students in their first and second year at UConn-Storrs (including those coming from regional campuses and transfer students) with their transition,” according to the website. 

The center’s Out to Lunch Lecture Series is another program that includes academic lectures and discussions with guest scholars and community activists. Due to the pandemic, this past year’s presentations were held online. 

Wesleyan University

The Queer Resource Center was created by students who were looking for a space for the LGBTQ+ community to gather. In 2015, students started to advocate for an expansion to the center to include more staffing and two years later, the resource center was created to serve the LGBTQ+ community, students of color, students who identify as women and first generational low income students.

The center focuses on race; ethnicity and nationality; gender and sexuality; socioeconomic status; social and political activism; and disability, sustainability and spirituality. 

“We really have to think about the whole person and not just little bits of it,” said Demetrius Colvin, center director. “How can we learn about, develop and teach about the whole person?”

The resource center works with student leaders across campus to support the LGBTQ+ community. This includes implementing programming and events. 

“We have our pride reception at the beginning of the year during orientation where the new incoming queers end up meeting the old returning queers and faculty and staff as well,” Colvin said. 

Central Connecticut State University

The school’s LGBT Center opened in 2009.  

“We have a lot of students who come up to the center and take part in the activities we do,” said WIlliam Mann, center director.  “We have programming, we have support groups and we have resources as well — both health resources and also just resources for the community. It’s become a very vital cultural center at Central.” 

Connecticut College 

At Connecticut College, there are three student groups on campus. CQ2, which stands for Connecticut College Queer and Questioning, is a biweekly closed group for students who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community.

 QTPOC, Queer and Trans People of Color, is a biweekly group for queer and trans people of color to come together to discuss their experiences. 

PRISM is the queer student association on campus that acts as more of a social group and is open to allies of the LGBTQ community. 

“The LGBTQIA Center also offers our queer peer mentorship program which matches typically queer upperclassmen with queer first year and sophomore students,” said Erin Duran, center director. “Connecting folks with maybe more experience within the queer community and navigating queerness… with folks who are a little newer to the community.” 

Duran also expressed hope that the center and the groups will continue to help individuals within the community to connect. 

“I’m very proud of the progress (Connecticut College) has made in terms of being a really queer inclusive institution and a lot of that really manifests on campus in forms of these groups and the opportunity for connections,” Duran said.

jsimms@record-journal.com203-317-2208Twitter: @jessica_simms99

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