Finding Yourself at UMBC
It’s no secret that college is a time of self-exploration and growth. During their time at UMBC, students discover what they’re passionate about and what they want to do with their lives. They make friends, they fall in love, they begin.
That experience is no different for the many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students at UMBC, whether they’ve been out for years or are in the midst of figuring it all out. And that’s why it is so important that we, as a campus community, show our support and offer programs and resources for all of our students.
“I came out on campus,” says Chris Magaha ‘03, information systems management. “It was my first experience being out to friends, it was when I had my first boyfriend. And as much as you’re around people in college, it can be lonely and isolating if you don’t know if what you’re feeling is normal.”
Providing the Support Students Need
Chris turned to the Freedom Alliance, a student-run organization founded in 1995 that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students, faculty, staff and their allies. In that group, he found the support he needed, and made friends and memories he still carries with him today.
“Every student should feel like they are wanted, accepted and belong. I always felt that way [at UMBC],” says Chris. That environment of acceptance and diversity, he maintains, has been fostered at every level of the campus community.
“The tone is set from the top,” says Chris. “Dr. Hrabowski stands behind this [focus on inclusion] and sets the standard. We really do want everybody to belong here.”
Fostering a Diverse and Welcoming Community
The focus on creating a welcoming community is not new at UMBC, says Susan McDonough, assistant professor of history, one of the many LGBTQ advocates on campus.
“There’s a long history of LGBTQ activism at UMBC,” she explains. Over the years, that activism has taken a variety of forms, most recently through the creation of the LGBT-Faculty and Staff Association.
Another key project driven by faculty and staff is the OutList, an online list of faculty and staff members who self-identify as LGBTQ and have chosen to be included in this virtual space.
The OutList has been an incredible and highly visible demonstration of UMBC’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity, says Susan, but she’s already focused on how we can continue to expand on that work.
Increasing Our Impact
And so UMBC continues to grow and expand its offering of LGBTQ-focused initiatives. Zach Kosinski, the graduate coordinator for LGBTQ Programs in The Mosaic: Center for Culture & Diversity, helps organize many of these essential–and life changing–programs.
“Every student who is dedicated and works hard to get an education and do something meaningful with their lives should have the support they need to do that,” he says. “That’s why we [Student Life] provide all these different services.”
Today, students have access to things like gender neutral housing, the Queer Student Lounge, an LGBTQ library and a range of LGBTQ-focused speakers. They can also get support from groups like Spectrum, Between Women and QUMBC.
“It’s incredible to hear the stories of the obstacles they [LGBTQ students] face while still being really high achievers,” says Zach. Many of those same students, he says, are greatly in need of and appreciative for the wide range of services UMBC offers. But there’s still more work to be done.
How You Can Help Us Change Lives
Our faculty, staff, students and alumni dream big: Zach and his team would like to build the Queer Student Lounge into a true resource center, beginning with card-swipe access, computers, and a more robust LGBTQ library. Chris speaks to the need for even more LGBTQ-focused career preparation to help students navigate the working world. And Susan would like to see a named LGBTQ lectures series on campus.
Right now, these are just ideas. But your support can turn them into a reality. Your gift to LGBTQ projects and initiatives like these can–and will–change lives.
“To support UMBC as an alum is a no-brainer,” says Chris, who has given in support of the LGBTQ projects. “As a student, I felt the positive impact [of donor support], and I want to live up to Dr. Hrabowski’s motto that of those to whom much is given, much is expected.”
Learn more about some of the LGBTQ Groups and Projects at UMBC:
- Freedom Alliance
- Queer Student Lounge
- You Can Play
- LGBT-Faculty/Staff Alliance
- Between Women
- Career Services
Make Baltimore the Most Generous City in America: #GivingTuesday’s mission is to create a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season. It celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support nonprofit organizations like UMBC. This year, we’re partnering with a number of local organizations in our own #GivingTuesday effort, the “Bmore Gives More” movement. Our goal? To raise $5 million collectively in support of all of Baltimore’s amazing charitable and non-profit organizations.