The comfort that comes from a welcoming and accessible campus can make all the difference. If certain campus resources are offered, like those that help students graduate, it can make the task of choosing a college much easier.
Such was the case for Grace Piper, a senior Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies major from Hillsboro, OR.
“Portland State was a really easy decision for me.” Grace had grown up around Portland and knew about the resources and opportunities PSU offers, but there was one thing in particular that helped them decide.
“What ultimately drove me to PSU was that it was listed in the top 25 most LGBT friendly college campuses when I was applying back in 2012/2013. This year I think we actually moved into the top 10, which is really cool and important!”
Once on campus, Grace found the Queer Resource Center, a support resource for students along the sexuality and gender spectra. “The QRC was on my radar early on.” QRC events helped Grace get acclimated to campus life and surrounded them with a community that understood where they were coming from.
“At first, I felt pretty shy and nervous. I remember coming into the QRC, looking around and quickly leaving. Eventually, though, I felt comfortable hanging out more and coming to events. I have made my best friends through the QRC.”
Now Grace helps to support the QRC by acting as their Marketing Coordinator. “I first got involved after helping plan Pride Month freshman year and have been working here since.” Grace also helps plan QRC events on campus that bring students who are feeling marginalized into a safe, welcoming environment.
“I helped plan the Queer Students of Color Conference this year. Pride Month, too, which happens throughout the month of May and leads us into the city’s celebration of Pride.” The Queer Students of Color Conference (QSOCC) especially represents the broad outreach that the QRC takes on, reaching out to student populations that may feel excluded or without representation.
All students, regardless of sexual or gender identity, can utilize the services of the QRC, which gets over 3,000 visits a year.
Grace’s university outreach doesn’t just extend to the QRC, they are also a University Studies Peer Mentor, leading the Health, Happiness, and Human Rights Freshman Inquiry course.
“It has been a really cool opportunity for me. I want to go into education and advocacy work, so this position has given me a lot of experience in teaching and curriculum development.”
All of these experiences are helping Grace gain the skills they need for life after graduation. “If I can, I want to work somewhere focusing on queer and trans and/or communities of color, which pairs really well with my campus experiences.”
Grace’s advice to new students?
“Seek community. Being marginalized makes completing your degree harder, so exploring the resources available to you is really important for support and making friends. Put yourself out there to find where you feel comfortable.”
Learn more about the QRC and find more LGBTQ resources on campus.