(The following piece was received via inbox from Kent State University.)
In a month synonymous with cupid, hearts and chocolates, it seems fitting that Kent State University’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Plus (LGBTQ+) Center is celebrating 10 years of love. The celebration began on Valentine’s Day and will extend through the end of the year.
The LGBTQ+ Center advocates for diversity, equity and inclusion related to sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression by providing support, programs, educational opportunities and leadership development for the university and greater community.
The center celebrated its grand opening on March 11, 2010. The momentum of the center’s opening continued with two major happenings within the department in 2011: Kent State became the first university in Ohio and one of a dozen LGBT Studies programs in the country, and the center established the LGBTQ Student Emergency Fund to assist students who have been cut off from familial support.
The following year, the center’s first-ever full-time staff member, Roxie Patton, coordinated the university’s inaugural Lavender Graduation Ceremony. The incredible growth also led to Ken Ditlevson being named the center’s first director in 2014, a position he still holds.
The advancements made in student programming offered in the center over the years have contributed to making Kent State one of the nation’s most LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities.
“Our Pride! Kent LGBTQ+ student organization is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year; they are the longest continuously running LGBTQ+ student organization in the entire country – something we are very proud of,” Ditlevson said. “Additionally, Kent State has a 5.0 out of 5.0 on the Campus Pride Index, a national benchmarking instrument that measures universities related to policy, procedure and daily experiences of students, and it truly demonstrates the level of commitment to the LGBTQ+ community.”
The center’s anniversary celebration is not just to commemorate 10 years of the center, according Ditlevson, but it is to further promote Kent State’s inclusiveness and make it known that the center is a safe space for students in the immediate area and beyond.
“In Ohio, Kent State University is a beacon of hope for LGBTQ+ students,” he said. “We have a huge offering of programming, multiple LGBTQ+ student organizations and help to link students to advocacy efforts and needs across the state and for national issues as well.”
Another major part of the anniversary celebration includes engaging with current students, faculty, staff and alumni while promoting the center as a resource for everyone, including those in the surrounding community.
“We are hoping to create interactive social media campaigns where our community can celebrate, share personal stories, experiences and gains they were part of during their time at Kent State,” Ditlevson said.
A series of campaigns called “10 Ways to Get Involved” are being staged throughout the year. Ideas range from joining the QUEST Mentorship program to volunteering at some of the bigger events, such as the Rainbow Run, celebrating at the annual TailGAYte during Homecoming or simply making a contribution to the LGBTQ+ Emergency Fund.
“The emergency fund is unique and extremely helpful,” Ditlevson said. “It is a safety net for any LGBTQ+ student in a financial crisis; in fact, most universities don’t have this in place. At Kent State, we help 30-plus students each year through this fund, which helps them reach graduation.”
While Ditlevson looks forward to celebrating a decade of love this year, he is also embracing a bright future ahead for the center.
“We’re extremely proud of the work being done at Kent State to enhance diversity and inclusion on our campus, in our community and throughout the world,” he said. “Other institutions look at Kent State’s LGBTQ+ Center as a model for what they strive to become. The credit for this rests on our students, alumni, our faculty and staff, and all of the leaders and activists before me who made this possible. This may be our 10th anniversary, but we are only getting started.”
- Learn more about Kent State’s LGBTQ+ Center by visiting www.kent.edu/lgbtq.