Supporting LGBTQ+ College Students

By Luis H. Garay

I was able to receive professional development even over spring break last week. On Friday I attended a daylong institute at DePaul University in Chicago about supporting LGBTQ+ college students. I was also able to meet fellow @SAFirstYears blogger @lindsayrite in real life. It was a happy and wonderful coincidence we both happened to attend this institute. At the conclusion of the institute, we both decided that for this week’s blog posts we wanted to write about our experiences. Lindsay’s post and her experience can be found here:

Much of my professional development this year has revolved around the LGBTQ+ community and college students. Earlier this year I attended the MBLGTACC Conference in Kansas City. At the conference I was inspired by the knowledge many of these college students and how self-aware they were. Their commitment to advocacy, social justice, and dismantling the system of privilege was awe-inspiring.

The day-long institute at DePaul really had me thinking about how I create an inclusive and welcoming environment for the students I work with. The panel of college students gave me cause to think about this. One of the panelists talked about how they perceived welcoming spaces to their various gender and sexual identities. They mentioned how certain symbols connoted to them safe spaces: rainbows visible in the space and posters/signage about social justice and advocacy plights. As a future #sapro, I want to create an inclusive, welcome space I want to be able to convey this. It served as a memo to self about the interior decorating of such an office.

Another panelist talked about their experience in interacting with faculty and how faculty can create an inclusive environment from the get-go. As someone who is a fall-semester learning strategies class instructor I evaluated myself on inclusivity in my classroom. I recognized where I was strong but where I was lacking was in creating an opportunity for students to give their preferred name. To me, I do not think much about a preferred name but to other LGBTQ+ students (such as trans* students) it is something they give a considerable amount of thought to. I do what most instructors probably do and go down my class list for attendance. Two ways I can go about creating a more inclusive environment is by either (1) emailing the class before the first day of class and ask things such as preferred name, hometown, major, etc or (2) using the same information-collecting-activity but facilitating it in the classroom with the students. For any future classes I instruct I will be more aware and give thought to how I am creating an environment that not only is inclusive but where students feel safe. It requires work on my end but the experience and benefit for LGBTQ+ students is very worthwhile.

What is some advice you have about working with LGBTQ+ college students? How are you creating an inclusive, welcoming environment for these students?

As always, tweet me your thoughts at @LuisHGaray. Thanks for reading!

Student Affairs - the First Years

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