Last spring five community interns at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center (LGBTRC) brainstormed the idea of a Queer Leadership Retreat (QLR) – a thought that will become a reality this weekend.
Three staff members and 47 students will head to Foresthill, Calif. for a weekend of workshops, academic resources, team building and other social activities.
“It is very important at a university, where students come and go within a few years, to be continually searching for and training future leaders with an awareness of the whole community,” said Cory Dostie, a leader at the retreat, in an e-mail interview.
The idea first sprouted as a final project for the community intern class, where the interns had to plan LGBTRC’s programs for the coming year.
“Faced with large budget cuts, we wanted to use our money wisely and decided to plan the first annual QLR, to be modeled after retreats put on by other resource centers on campus,” said Chelsea DeLeon, community intern for LGBTRC, in an e-mail interview.
Weekly planning meetings began in November 2009 with various student groups, such as the Student Recruitment and Retention Center and the Cross-Cultural Center, in addition to LGBTIQ students.
The retreat’s funding does not just come from LGBTRC, but from the other resource centers as well.
It’s common for the resource centers on campus to get involved with one another’s projects, said Laura Mitchell, community intern for LGBTRC.
“Whenever the different resource centers put on events, there’s a fair amount of co-sponsorship,” she said. “It goes beyond just writing us a check.”
The QLR’s main objectives are to empower the LGBTIQ students while building a community, develop strategies for raising awareness and consciousness within the students’ other communities and provide a safe place to develop leadership skills, DeLeon said.
“One of our biggest things is empowering the LGBTIQ community on campus to be leaders in the different communities they are a part of,” Mitchell said.
“It is also aimed at reaching newer students, such as first-years and transfers, who might not be as involved in the community as students who have been here longer,” Dostie said.
Workshops are intended to cover issues such as mental health, gender, healthy relationships, getting involved in the queer community and academics.
“We plan on educating about academic probation/dismissal, how to use the centers as academic resources and how to navigate through the predominantly homophobic, heterosexist university system as an LGBTIQ student,” DeLeon said.
Mitchell agreed with DeLeon’s sentiment.
“There are a lot of issues that queer students deal with that aren’t given a lot of attention or resources,” she said.
Queers have the added struggle of understanding their own identities, and it should be the university’s responsibility to make students feel welcome, Mitchell said.
The addition of transgender health care is one way that UCD is moving towards being more supportive, but according to Mitchell the queer community is not well taken care of overall.
“There are a lot of things they’re not doing that we need to do for ourselves,” she said.
JANELLE BITKER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.