Thinking back as a student I never imagined that starting my academic career at my local community college would be the step that propelled me forward into my #SAcareer path. From the beginning, the idea of community college both intrigued and confused me. Since I had shown that I could be successful at the time, I was pretty low on the radar as a student and did not take advantage of resources that may have been available to me.
I’d like to talk about LGBTQA+ and subcultures and how I see this affect my work with college students. I feel this discussion is so relevant to keep in the forefront because we are seeing a lot of cultural shifts in our society as a whole and these shifts can also be seen on our campuses nationwide. I’m sure many of us have seen various incarnations of a “Pride Club” and many of them do not stay active from year to year. This, unfortunately, leaves many of our LGBTQA+ students without a strong resource and support system on campus.
Due to this fact, I do a lot of work in my First Year Experience course to raise awareness and create a safe space for students who may fall into the LGBTQA+ or other subcultures. An example of this is in a lesson where we talk about approaching others with “non-judgmental stance” and opening our minds to others views and beliefs. We cover a variety of subcultures ranging from different facets of the LGBTQA+ community to alternative subcultures, other cultures, etc. I also make it a point to ask on the first day if students in my class have preferred pronouns and/or names. I am also beginning to work this into my advising and coaching with students. I feel it is better to ask how a student would like to be called, then to offend them or make them feel out of place.
I believe that these particular populations of students are underserviced at times on community college campuses. It’s not necessarily that there aren’t campus resources available, but the challenge is that often we are just not able to get to them through inconsistently active extracurriculars. I feel strongly that making the spaces in which we serve students as safe, welcoming, and inclusive as possible is a necessity. After all, if we can see ourselves in our students we can see our struggles. As someone who personally identifies with the LGBTQA+ subculture and others, I know firsthand that there have been times when I have felt left out or not included as a group with more mainstream awareness. Therefore, as a professional I have taken it upon myself to ensure that should I have students who identify in those groups that they feel like they can be open and safe.
To begin to foster this kind of awareness in YOUR interactions with students, here are some suggestions:
- Have a sign in your office or classroom that states something along the lines of “SAFTEY ZONE” of “ALLY”. Having these kinds of visual messages let others know you are an open and safe individual.
- There is no harm in asking how others like to be called. I frequently will ask people I am meeting for the first time, “How do you like to be called?” to allow them the opportunity to introduce themselves with another name, gender pronoun, etc.
- Be an advocate for others. Always be willing to stand up for individuals who are in different subcultures and educate others around you with facts to support your reasoning.
All these things are just a few ideas of how to START to foster awareness and bring that kind of environment closer to home for our students. “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step.” This is your way to take it.
This post is part of our #comm_college series, which aims to explore experiences developing community college policies and processes that impact the recruitment, retention, and completion of community college students. What human interest stories do you have of community college student resilience, persistence, and success? What about a stories of transition, challenge, or transformation? A variety of SA pros working in student affairs at a community college will share their insights. For more information, please see Kim Irland’s intro post. Be sure to check out other posts in this series!
> BONUS <
Podcast With Brittany Duron on Geeks & Nerds on Campus