Queer and Trans Students of Color Community Building Initiative
In Fall of 2017, The Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success launched an initiative to be more intentional in how our office creates and supports community building programs specifically for queer, trans, and LGBTQIA+ students of color at Iowa State. This initiative began with distributing a survey asking queer and trans students of color to give us feedback about what they might like to see in future events sponsored by The Center. What follows is a summary of the rationale for this initiative, the early results of the student survey, and the proposed timeline for this initiative.
Why is it necessary to have spaces and events specifically for queer and trans students of color?
We see a pattern of pattern of isolation expressed by queer and trans students of color. During events and in one-on-one meetings with our staff, many queer and trans students of color have shared feeling like they are “the only one,” that they do not know how to find other QTPOC students, and that they are afraid if they come out in their campus or social networks that they will lose the support of their peers. We also recognize that our programs and our center space continue to be inaccessible or unwelcoming to many queer and trans students of color at Iowa State, based on direct and indirect feedback from students. Knowing this, we believe it is necessary to create spaces that are closed to self-identified queer and trans students of color. Our staff is committed to using our energy and resources to support these spaces, while we also continue to work to make all our programs and our center space welcoming to and inclusive of queer and trans students of color.
What has The Center done in the past to support spaces specifically for queer and trans students of color?
Since its opening, The Center has sporadically facilitated and sponsored events and gatherings for queer and trans students of color. This included Gathering Groups, the last recorded Gathering Group for queer people of color occurred from Fall 2009 to Spring 2011. In Spring 2016 and Spring 2017, QTPOC Night was held as part of the Mix. Mingle. Munch. series.
Students have expressed enjoying a sense of comradery in these spaces and that they would like more opportunities to share space with other queer and trans students of color. Challenges our staff and volunteer facilitators have experienced in coordinating the above events has included: difficulty finding facilitators, low attendance numbers, balancing concerns around outing students vs. creating more visibility for QTPOC events on campus, overburdening a few students who volunteer to help plan events, finding locations that are accessible and comfortable for students, and maintaining connections between students after individual events.
Our intent in this current initiative is to address these challenges by:
Doing a broader outreach to students, faculty, and staff that might be interested in assisting in planning these events, rather than overwhelming a few volunteers.
Asking for more feedback from students throughout the planning process so events reflect student interests and needs.
Having more transparency about the planning process through our website and communication with students.
Using The Center’s resources and staff time to create a process that will help sustain connections between students beyond individual events or meetings. Our hope is to work with volunteers to create more accessible avenues for students seeking QTPOC community at Iowa State.
What did students share in the survey?
Here are highlights from the survey responses we've collected as of March 12, 2018:
- 32 students completed the survey
- 17 students indicated they were interested in helping to plan events for queer and trans students of color
- The types of events that students expressed the most interest in were movie viewings, community dinners, and discussion groups
- The outcomes of events students expressed most interest in were making friends or meeting other students who are QTPOC; discussion about topics relevant to QTPOC's experiences at Iowa State and beyond; education about QTPOC histories, experiences, issues, etc.; and networking with faculty and staff who are QTPOC or allies of color.
Where is The Center in this process? What happens next?
As of March 2018, here is what has happened:
October 2017: Student survey was distributed to gather feedback from queer and trans students of color about what they might like to see in future events from The Center.
Early November 2017: Follow-up email was sent to students who indicated interest in helping plan events. Email included early survey results. Students were asked to nominate faculty and staff who they believe would be excellent at planning or facilitating gatherings for queer, trans, and LGBTQIA+ students of color.
Late November-December 2017: The Center staff reached out to select faculty & staff to request their assistance in planning and facilitation of events for queer and trans students of color.
January 2018-March 2018: Planning meetings w/ faculty, staff, and student volunteers to plan event in Spring 2018 that meets the needs students outlined in the survey. Committee also discussed how to sustain connections between queer and trans students of color beyond individual events to create stronger, more visible QTPOC community at Iowa State.
February 2018: Broader outreach to QTPOC-supporting faculty and staff to ask for assistance and/or participation in events, based on what the planning committee determined was needed. The Center staff works with graphic designer to create marketing for event.
April 11, 2018: QTPOC Brunch. Event will be facilitated by faculty, staff and student volunteers who are queer and trans people of color. The Center is responsible for funding and other resources, set-up, and clean-up.
Below is the proposed timeline for this initiative. Timeline will be updated as The Center staff works with students, faculty, and/or staff volunteers to determine what happens next:
April 2018: Planning committee meets to review successes and challenges of QTPOC Brunch. Planning committee may discuss future avenues for creating QTPOC community at Iowa State, potentially including continuing programs, mentoring, retreats, an official student organization, etc.
May 2018 and beyond: The Center staff will continue to partner with students, faculty, and staff who express interest in community building for queer and trans students of color at Iowa State. Number and types of future events will be determined by QTPOC Community Building support team and informed by the student survey. The Center will allocate resources to support future programs and initiatives that the planning committee recommends.
Fall 2018: QTPOC student social August 29th, co-hosted by The Center and The Office for Multicultural Student Affairs. More details can be found here.