By: Zach Parker, he/him/his, Assistant Director for LGBTQIA Programs and Services

As I’m getting ready for my first semester at UMKC as a Roo, I can start to feel the buzz as students trickle back onto campus in the weeks ahead of the full return to the semester. For me, this summer has been a time to start connecting with peers across campus, but also a chance to start rethinking the office’s approach to the work of an LGBTQIA Resource Center and how our programs fit into the larger picture of the student experience. How can the office, even transitioning out of one public health crisis and into another, help students build up the skills and connections they need to succeed beyond their time at UMKC?

This year, you’ll likely see some pretty substantial changes from LGBTQIA Programs & Services, especially in the way the office approaches programming and student support. We’ve focused all our programs down to four key pillars, ideas that we hope will speak to our students' current and future needs, so that we’re moving to help support LGBTQIA students across campus in four key areas: Community, Wellness, Education, and Advocacy. Through these four areas, we’ve developed a robust calendar of programs that I’m hopeful will help our students connect with each other and to connect with a sense of community and pride in their identities and in themselves. We have weekly programming for students to find community through “Gaymer Night” and “LGBTea Community Hour” in our reimagined, and hopefully soon full-of-life, Rainbow Lounge; we’re expanding our celebration of trans communities throughout the week of November 14 in our first Trans Celebration Week; we’re connecting students with health and wellness services across campus, including physical, mental, emotional, and financial health; and we’re exploring our shared LGBTQIA history through a partnership with the Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America through our “Queer in the Archives” series.

Additionally, I hope that I get to see far more of all of you throughout the year. My approach to this work, as has been my approach in other LGBTQIA Centers and my time in the classroom, is that our collective work to serve LGBTQIA students (and I’d be willing to argue all students) isn’t complete unless it’s critical, intersectional, and done in cooperation with the community. I’m always happy to work on new collaborations, assist with the promotion of programs for the community, and brainstorm better ways for us to serve our students across campus.

As my new Roo community, I’m looking forward to a year of working together, getting to know each other, and supporting one another as we work together to make UMKC, and Kansas City, an even better place.

In community,