'Big Queer Lunch' offers community to students
GVL / Sara Carte Eric Lacerna studies inside the LGBT Resource Center on Sept. 29, 2015.
As students move back to Grand Valley State University, the campus is abuzz with excitement. Whether a student is a freshman or a well-versed senior, every Laker wants to build a sense of community on campus.
To aid in this and start the new school year, the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center facilitated the “Big Queer Welcome Back Lunch” as a series of free lunches held during the first week of classes.
Marla Wick, assistant director of the LGBT Resource Center, is involved in planning and executing the lunches. Wick, along with her colleagues, works to organize and promote the lunches as well as set a friendly and supportive campus atmosphere, which she said is an important factor in why the event is held.
“We hope these lunches are a way of boosting the LGBT Resource Center's visibility and of reminding people, both new and returning, that we are here to support them,” she said. “The Big Queer Lunches are a fun, casual way of welcoming students back to campus and connecting people with the LGBT Resource Center.”
The lunches not only introduce students to the on-campus LGBT community, but also allow students to learn about the different programs the LGBT Center offers at GVSU. Ezra Smith, a student worker at the LGBT Resource Center, said attending the event opens students to organizations and programs they might not have known about otherwise.
“For allies, if they don’t know that the ally training programs happen, they can find out at these lunches,” he said. “If you have first-year queer students come in, they might not know about First Year Queer Alliance, and so on.”
Although the center's Big Queer Lunches are aimed toward students who identify as part of the LGBT community, allies and students who do not identify with the LGBT community are welcome to attend. Smith said allies introduced to the LGBT community and center could find themselves exposed to new theories.
“Exposure is always an important thing, as far as opening your mind and being an ally," Smith said. "Allies can come and make community too, and make it clear that they are a safe space, which is really important."
Wick also said including allies can allow students to feel more comfortable in their own identities.
“While many of the LGBT Resource Center's services and resources are aimed at supporting GVSU's LGBT students, faculty and staff, we recognize that allies are an important part of the campus community,” Wick said. “We believe that bringing people together helps to create a welcoming and inclusive environment where everyone can be their whole selves.”
The Big Queer Welcome Back Lunches are held annually during the first week of the semester. In order to accommodate people of all diets, the lunches served different food choices each day.
“We try to mix it up and have food that a variety of people can enjoy, and we always have vegan option,” Wick said. “I'm vegan myself, so this is something I'm very aware of.”
More information about the LGBT Resource Center can be found at www.gvsu.edu/lgbtrc or by visiting the center in the Kirkhof Center, which is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.