Since opening its doors for the first time this semester, The LGBTQ Center at Binghamton University has been developing its presence on campus by taking steps to bolster BU’s LGBTQ community.
Its newest series of events is the Stonewall Mixer, a monthly networking opportunity for faculty, staff and graduate students at BU. Stocked with food and coffee, the mixers foster an environment that enables LGBTQ members of BU’s graduate programs to network with faculty and support peers or co-workers who also belong to the LGBTQ community.
The first mixer, which took place on Sept. 8 in the basement of Glenn G. Bartle Library, boasted 42 attendees. The mixers go on for 2 1/2 hours, so those who are busy teaching or studying can find time to attend, if even for only 20 minutes.
Kelly Clark, the director of the LGBTQ Center, said that the predominant goal of the mixers is to allow relationships, both social and professional, to prosper outside of a classroom setting.
Clark said that while roughly 80 percent of the Center’s efforts and funds are dedicated to supporting undergraduates, the Stonewall Mixer and other work is allocated to graduate students and administration at large.
“Imagine, as a graduate student, your laser-beam focus is that you’re in your lab every day, in the library,” Clark said. “You barely know multiple people in your own department, let alone across the institution. At the mixers, we had somebody from physics, from economics, from anthropology, and these are people who never would have had the opportunity to meet each other on campus aside of this.”
The Center has a goal to craft an environment where LGBTQ students across schools at BU can feel safe and recognized. Clark said that it is imperative that the Center’s mission also fully envelops graduate students, staff or others who can be overlooked, as the graduate school at BU holds roughly 3,000 students.
“We’ve actually had faculty and staff members who’ve left the institution because they didn’t feel comfortable in finding an LGBTQ community that they felt they could be part of,” Clark said. “I’m hoping a bigger community will grow out of this.”
Evan Lowe, a first-year graduate student in the masters of public administration and masters of social work dual-degree program, said he attended both mixers and enjoyed networking with new people from different departments.
“There are absolutely people in various departments that I met who I would consider hanging out with outside the University setting,” Lowe said. “It was nice to see that there’s an LGBTQ community that provides direct support to people like me, around my age, that will always encourage us.”
Clark said these events will lead to a formal LGBTQ faculty and staff association at BU that would convene monthly and implement efforts more directly on campus, such as scholarships, creating better job opportunities for the LGBTQ community and implementing welcome week programs for incoming students.
“Through training of new faculty and staff, putting together brochures or a webpage about LGBTQ life on campus, a formal organization could welcome people and make them feel part of the institution,” Clark said. “We’re just getting started. The possibilities are endless.”