Drexel added more diverse colors to its traditional blue and gold with the opening of the LGBTQA Student Center on Oct. 22. The Center serves as a resource for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and ally/asexual members of the Drexel community.
Located on the garden level of the Creese Student Center, the LGBTQA Center will act as a safe space on campus for students questioning their sexuality, seeking support for the coming-out process, facing campus discrimination or just seeking help as they transition to college. Trained graduate students from the Couple and Family Therapy Department in the College of Nursing and Health Professions will staff the center and offer referrals to both Drexel and local community resources. Several LGBTQA student groups from different colleges will also use the center, which is supported by the Student Center for Inclusion & Culture (SCIC).
“Drexel University has a growing LGBTQA student population,” said Tatiana Diaz, director of the SCIC. “These students can experience challenges and difficulties that are unique to them.”
Key stakeholders, including Dean of Students David Ruth, professional staff, faculty, alumni and students, were on hand for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the center’s opening. A panel of faculty, staff, alumni and students also discussed the history of Drexel’s LGBTQA community during the reception. Dave Lanza, a Drexel alum and current program manager of university relations and student engagement at Campus Philly, served as the moderator.
“It is our hope to be able to acknowledge the journey that has led us to the opening of the center and be able to dream together for the future of the center and the Drexel community,” said Diaz.
Maureen Nolan, a senior communications major and president of Drexel’s Foundation of Undergraduates for Sexual Equality (FUSE) organization, was one of the student panelists at the opening. Along with other students, she was involved with a board that met with faculty and staff to handle the logistics of creating the center.
Nolan said FUSE was involved with the center from the very beginning. Two years ago, student members created the initial petition, proposal and budget while showing the administration that there was a need for a center at Drexel.
“[The center] is not only a symbol of respect and allegiance to the LGBT students, but a necessity,” she said.
After finding space for the center, Ruth worked with Associate Dean of Students Rebecca Weidensaul and campus partners to design and sustain it with limited resources.
Though the space was originally set to open in the fall of 2012, members of the Student Affairs staff and other stakeholders used the additional time to gather support from the community and alumni to improve the center’s mission and scope.
“Drexel is constantly evolving and currently in the process of rebuilding their entire campus,” Nolan said. “I think it is crucial that Drexel remember its LGBT students in this new building process and create an even better space for them.”
Drexel professional staff and students from other areas of the University helped make the plans a reality. John Watson, director of the Office of Alcohol, Other Drug and Health Education and assistant director of the Counseling Center, and Stephanie Brooks and Christian Jordal from the Department of Couple and Family Therapy in the College of Nursing and Health Professions helped recruit and train graduate student staff for the center.
“We thank all those that have worked to make this center happen and that have laid the foundational work of LGBTQA advocacy on campus—we are thrilled that it is here and we want to see it continue to grow,” said Diaz.