Grinnell College Student Attends Conference on LGBT Issues & Carleton College's Gender & Sexuality Center

February 21, 2018

Ric Tennenbaum '18
LGBT safe spaces foster an inclusive environment that challenges oppression, provides support and creates welcoming physical spaces for the LGBT community. Yet, developing, expanding and restructuring LGBT safe spaces can be challenging. A few months ago, the Wilson Center for Innovation & Leadership helped Ric Tennenbaum ’18 — a gender, women’s, and sexuality studies major and a coordinator of the Stonewall Resource Center (SRC) on campus — to attend the Minnesota OUT! Campus Conference (MOOC) at the LGBT Center  at Minnesota State University, Mankato, from November 3-5.

MOOC is a regionally recognized conference and aims to foster discussions related to current issues facing the LGBT community on college and university campuses and in the greater community. The conference’s recent theme, “Resistance and Persistence: Action in a New Era,” seeks to educate young leaders passionate about LGBT rights about the usages of marches, protests, and other forms of civic engagement as strategic mechanisms for expanding equity and ensuring social justice for all.

Lessons from the Visits

For Tennenbaum, the regional diversity of participants at MOOC fostered expansive discussions about LGBT safe spaces and served as a forum where different methods of sustaining LGBT safe spaces at colleges could be discussed.

“The conference was important in building up relationships with regional queer college communities. I shared stories with people at colleges who are being denied any kind of resource center and with people whose resource centers are far more developed than that of the Stonewall Resource Center,” Tennenbaum writes. “I received very good guidelines for hosting queer events that do both political and inclusive social work.” To that end, Tennenbaum emphasizes the importance of inter-collegiate collaboration and solidarity. “Maintaining a supporting and collaborative relationship with other regional queer college resource centers is important for the growth and development of the SRC,” she explains.

In addition to attending MOOC, Tennenbaum also visited Carleton College’s Gender & Sexuality Center. “It’s very clear that Carleton and Grinnell share a lot of the same spatial, social, and resource quirks within our respective queer communities,” Tennenbaum writes.  “However, they have recently restructured and established a queer resource center on their campus, and hearing about how they’ve addressed issues of leadership, program creation, labor, and the physical space of their center has given me a long list of ideas to implement at the Stonewall Resource Center.” 

Ultimately, Tennenbaum’s experience allowed her to embrace the challenges associated with leadership — in particular, challenges related to advocating for a traditionally marginalized group. Specifically, Tennenbaum was able to strategize potential innovative solutions for reorganizing the SRC such as expanding its outreach initiatives, and in the process, gained a much deeper understanding and appreciation of LGBT issues as it relate to college campus settings. “The experience, particularly visiting Carleton College’s Gender & Sexuality Center, has given me ways to further develop how I, as a coordinator of the SRC, empower my peers to develop programming that’s meaningful and educational for us. It’s also provided me with a blueprint for how I can advocate for a full-time staff director of the SRC in addition to a new space for the physical SRC,” Tennenbaum concludes.

The Wilson Center seeks to inspire and prepare students as innovators and leaders through courses, personal development, and events that emphasize experiential learning.