Aug 24, 2018 | Atlanta, GA
The fall semester started this week as it starts each year: filled with promise. For one group of students, faculty, and staff, however, that promise looked especially bright.
On Thursday, Aug. 23, a crowd of nearly 200 gathered in the atrium of the Charles A. Smithgall Jr. Student Services Building — popularly known as the Flag Building — to celebrate the grand opening of the new LGBTQIA Resource Center.
It hasn't been a long trip, nor a particularly strange one, since the original center was first established in a single office in the Flag Building in 2014.
That's what made this day so meaningful.
Because in a very short time, the center has expanded not only its physical space, but also its programming and its reach across the Tech campus and beyond. And earlier this year, the staff expanded - "We doubled our staff," Parsons joked - with the hiring of the first full-time coordinator, Camilla Brewer.
"I am thrilled with all that the center has accomplished in its first four years," said Aby Parsons, director of the LGBTQIA Resource Center. "What we may have lacked in square footage, we made up for in ambition, hard work, creativity, and a whole lot of support from folks just like you who are here with us today."
Those efforts have resulted in training more than 1,700 students and employees; raising more than $50,000 in philanthropic support from alumni, faculty, and staff; celebrating the accomplishments of more than 70 "lavender graduates;" and launching some 20 programs, many through collaborations with campus partners such as Institute Diversity and Student Life.
"This new facility will help provide the spaces necessary for us to continue to grow and support the programs that are so important to Georgia Tech," President G.P. "Bud" Peterson said. He also noted that the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of Scout Schultz, fourth-year computer engineering major and former president of Tech's Pride Alliance, was approaching.
Calling it a "heartbreaking experience," Peterson encouraged the crowd to remember the work of the Path Forward — Together action teams created in the aftermath of the tragedy. Their efforts have resulted in recommendations and initiatives that are making a difference on campus, with more still to come.
"This center is just one manifestation of those initiatives," he said. "It's a physical manifestation of the things that we can do to create the type of environment and culture that we can all be proud of here at Georgia Tech."
Before the ribbon-cutting and tours of the new space, John Stein, vice president for Student Life and the Brandt-Fritz Dean of Students Chair, and Archie Ervin, vice president for Institute Diversity, reflected on how far the Tech community has come in supporting LGBTQIA people and addressing the issues that are important to them.
"The center's expansion is a testament to the students and staff who worked tirelessly to advocate," Stein said. "As we move forward, I ask us all to honor the past, but more importantly focus on the future - where this community wants to go, and how we're going to get there together."
Ervin emphasized, "We in Institute Diversity see this as an important part of building an inclusive campus."
"Today," he said, "this room is the epitome of the faces of Georgia Tech."
Genny Kennedy, president of the Georgia Tech Pride Alliance, concluded by praising the students, staff, and faculty who have "the means and the passion that it takes to make more meaningful change. I am thrilled to witness the fruits of their endless time and effort."
The LGBTQIA Resource Center will host a student welcome event on Monday, Aug. 27, at 6 p.m. The center is now located on the first floor of the Flag Building, but the event will take place in the Student Center's Peachtree Room.