“Metropolitan State University is not unique in needing an office that serves women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community,” says incoming Women and LGBTQ Student Services Coordinator, Christa Spielman. “A sense of belonging is one of the most necessary things in order for a student to remain enrolled in a university and persist to graduation. This sense of belonging and connectedness is especially critical for women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, as these populations of students frequently face barriers as they navigate a system of higher education that was not created with their underrepresented identities, in mind.”
Systematic oppression and inequity for women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community still exist in many areas including education, employment, housing, healthcare, athletics, leadership, sexual assault and harassment, earnings, and politics. By advocating for institutional change on issues surrounding gender justice, a Women’s and LGBTQ Resource Center can help increase the retention, safety and success of women and LGBTQIA+ students. A Women’s and LGBTQ Resource Center is an important asset not only because it allows for the acknowledgement of gender injustice, but it can also work to create desire to engage with principles of social justice and transformation.
Metropolitan State University Women and LGBTQ Student Services exists to provide support, advocacy, education and outreach for women and members of the LGBTQIA+ population. The coordinator provides services and programming that will make campus a place that engenders a culture of diversity and inclusion.
Spielman believes that “the office should act as a positive, proactive and effective catalyst to achieve equity and create a sense of belonging for all students, with a specific focus on women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.”
Spielman goes on to say, “Students and their success will serve as the driving force behind my decisions as the Women and LGBTQ Student Services Coordinator. Student success will occur when the Women’s and LGBTQ Resource Center delivers programs and services with a focus on understanding student’s social contexts and experiences. In return, this student-centered agenda will challenge students to broaden their world views and develop a more robust sense of self-efficacy.”
Spielman received a Bachelor of Science from Saint Cloud State University, where she double-majored in Community Psychology and Chemical Dependency. After an 880-hour internship as a drug and alcohol counselor, she knew she wanted to contribute and give back in a way that was more meaningfully connected to my own struggles, experiences and triumphs.
She was introduced to the LGBT Resource Center and that’s when everything changed for the better. She got connected to resources, friends, role models, and opportunities for leadership development and community and campus activism and engagement. If it were not for the LGBT Resource Center, she doesn’t think she would have persisted to graduation.
It is that reason why she decided to get a degree in Student Affairs, because she wanted to give back and be that system of support for other students struggling with identity development and sense of belonging. She applied to the University of Utah, where she received her Master of Education in Educational Leadership and Policy, and after graduation, she accepted a position as the Assistant Director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at Michigan Technological University.
Working as Assistant Director gave her experience creating, implementing and assessing programming and training initiatives for underrepresented students with a specific focus on women and LGBTQIA+ education and outreach. Since community activism was such an integral part of her own identity development, she knew she wanted to work on a campus that also valued community engagement and reciprocity.
“Metropolitan State University has a strong connection to the community in which it resides, and Saint Paul is where I was born and raised. Working in a city I call home, is a dream come true,” Spielman says.
The First Year
“Although this is not a new position, this position has been vacant for some time and will require innovation and time to reach a desired impact.”
In her first year, the ultimate goal is to create a “home away from home” for all students via the Women’s and LGBTQ Resource Center, especially women and members of the LGBTQIA+ population. “I would like to create connections between students and between students, the campus, and the community.
“By providing resources and support, my aim is to make students feel safe, welcomed and challenged, and to educate the campus community on the identities and life experiences of women and LGBTQIA+ students. I hope to create a culture of consciousness-raising, so students, faculty, and staff can become aware of not only gender discrimination but also the inequities surrounding race, class, and other areas of power, domination, subordination, and intersectionality.
“I also aspire to create educational opportunities that raise awareness of how gender functions in society. One idea is to create a diversity speaker series focusing on the voices of LGBT individuals, women, & underrepresented minorities. Another goal is to make Metropolitan State University a participant in the Campus Pride Index, which is an assessment tool that can be used to increase the recruitment and retention efforts for LGBTQIA+ prospective students. Ultimately, with my strong interest in student success, a student driven agenda would be what I would consider a true accomplishment in my first year.
Women and LGBTQ Student Services is located in Founders Hall 140. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.