The prevalence of LGBTQ centers on college campuses has grown to the point that they’re generally a fixture on most comprehensive universities across the country. However, fostering that same kind of dedicated LGBTQ culture on smaller, commuter-based campuses like UW-Waukesha requires a little extra effort from committed campus leaders and dedicated students. I try to fill that position.
I started teaching at UW-Waukesha in 2009, and made it a point to begin increasing LGBTQ awareness early on in my tenure. I have been the advisor to my campus’s pride alliance and then also the co-director of our LGBTQIA Resource Center. UW-Waukesha is the only campus of the UW Colleges to actually have a center…it’s a safe space for students to come in and work and just hang out.
I’ve been doing what I call LGBTQ 101 sessions. I’ve been doing these at a few institutions like UW-Fond du Lac, I’ve guest lectured at UW-Manitowoc. I gave a workshop at the All Colleagues Conference for UW-Extension on basic LGBTQ issues and a lot of the folks who are involved with 4-H were really excited.
As campus awareness has grown, I have been able to implement small changes here and there to make the UW-Waukesha more LGBTQ-friendly. We’ve implemented gender-neutral bathrooms. A generous fund given to UW-Waukesha by professor emeritus Sue Andrews allowed prominent speakers like Janet Mock to speak to students. There’s even a wealth of LGBTQ books in the library.
Additionally, the Pride Alliance members have started hosting events in search of a more vibrant student atmosphere surrounding the LGBTQ community. With a budding group of officers on the Pride Alliance, organized trips to regional LGBTQ events and prominent speakers willing to educate the UW-Waukesha community, the campus boasts a comprehensive suite of resources for its students. The next step is to expand these ideas to the rest of the UW Colleges.
I think definitely having LGBTQ 101 sessions across the Colleges is really important. I am currently helping develop workshops that could be used institution wide, and hope to continue expanding this message far beyond the UW-Waukesha campus.