Dozens of faculty, staff, and students filled the Terrace Room at the Lawrence Street Center for the inaugural Diversity Dialogue, a series aimed at normalizing conversations about identity, culture, and current issues at CU Denver. The Nov. 20 talk explored the challenges members of the LGBTQ+ community face on the Auraria Campus.
Chancellor Dorothy Horrell opened the discussion with a sincere message of support and understanding. Creating a more inclusive culture is one of CU Denver’s strategic priorities, she emphasized. She encouraged other CU Denver leaders, who were spread among the tables, to serve as notetakers to capture the issues and challenges members of the LGBTQ+ community experience. “What does it mean to belong?” Horrell said. “In my mind, it starts with being understood. It starts with feeling accepted—feeling welcomed, feeling supported, feeling valued, feeling safe.”
Horrell introduced the lead facilitators: Lauren Fontana, director of Affirmative Action Programs for the Office of Equity; Sara Anderson, training and outreach coordinator for the Office of Equity; and Cynthia Chen, a licensed psychologist in the Counseling Center. They set the tone for the conversation, titled Allies for Understanding: Building a Safe and Supportive Space for CU Denver’s LGBTQ+ Community Members, and went over the guidelines of the discussion to ensure a safe space for people from marginalized communities to be heard.
At each table was a facilitator, at least one administrator, and members of faculty, staff, and the student body. Participants talked through a personal on-campus narrative, followed by a prompt to consider what they wanted leadership to know before reporting back to the larger group.
The afternoon ended with a moment of reflection followed by next steps. Guests were asked to fill out an evaluation form, which will be used in planning the next Diversity Dialogue. Chancellor Horrell is expected to send a communiqué on the kick-off conversation in the upcoming weeks. Guests left with a free copy of the book Trans* in College: Transgender Students’ Strategies for Navigating Campus Life and the Institutional Politics of Inclusion.
The series Diversity Dialogues will be hosted occassionally, with the goal of enhancing diversity campus-wide and fostering a culture of inclusion. Each dialogue will focus on a different community focus related to diversity and inclusion, and all members of the CU Denver community are invited to attend.