Chris Woods, director of the LGBTQ+ Center at NYU, reflects on the Center’s history, its purpose, and his experience watching it grow into an invaluable resource for the entire NYU community over the last 25 years.
When I was an undergrad at NYU, double-majoring in English and Religious Studies in the College of Arts and Science, the NYU LGBTQ+ Center was a critical resource for me. Through mentorship, student organizations, and leadership programs, the Center was where I found support and community after coming out. It was also where I developed the skills that served as the foundation for my career—first as a student employee at the Center and now as its director.
This Is Who We Are
Since its start in 1996, the Office of LGBT Student Services’ founding mission was to meet the needs of NYU’s LGBTQ+ communities in the face of a continually changing sociopolitical landscape regarding sexual and romantic orientation, gender identity, and expression.
Two and a half decades later, our mission remains the same. After operating as the NYU LGBTQ Student Center for nearly nine years, our move to the NYU Office of Global Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic Innovation and subsequent name change to the NYU LGBTQ+ Center more accurately reflect the true scope of our work. We provide the entire NYU community—students, faculty, staff, and alumni—with programs, events, learning and development, support, consultation, and resource sharing to help develop the understanding of and engagement with LGBTQ+ communities. We are excited to work with all NYU’s LGBTQ+ communities to imagine what engagement and support look like for them, both in the service of students and in making the University a more inclusive and welcoming place for all.
This Is What We Do
The LGBTQ+ Center helps our incredibly diverse campus community understand, support, and create more inclusive policies and practices for members of LGBTQ+ communities. In this role, we facilitate trainings and workshops focused on supporting LGBTQ+ communities, review policy language and university-wide practices to ensure they’re LGBTQ+ inclusive, and innovate ways to position NYU as a leader of LGBTQ+ inclusion in higher education.
One of our recent initiatives that I’m particularly excited about is the celebration of our 25th anniversary. Given the current realities surrounding COVID-19, we’ve used social media to uplift stories and memories that commemorate the Center’s positive impact on LGBTQ+ life at NYU—and the university community as a whole—during the last 25 years. Additionally, we’ve started a fundraising campaign to support our priority areas of focus: developing the LGBTQ+ Student Emergency Fund, which supports NYU students who need immediate financial support; expanding the scope and reach of leadership programs the Center offers to students; and establishing the LGBTQ+ Research Grant, in partnership with NYU’s Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, to support LGBTQ+ research and scholars at NYU.
This Is How You Can Get Involved
There are many ways to engage with the LGBTQ+ Center. As a student, you can join one of the many student-run LGBTQ+ groups or stop by the Center to hang out with friends or receive support as you come out to family and friends. You can also take part in a wide range of LGBTQ+ Center events and programs. It all depends on what you’re looking for!
Whether in-person or adapted for the digital world of COVID-19, some of our most popular events and programs include:
- NY(Drag)U, an annual student drag showcase featuring a contestant from RuPaul’s Drag Race
- Queer Leadership Retreat, a yearly retreat where NYU LGBTQ+ students can build community and learn what it means to be a queer leader on campus
- First Year Queers and Allies (FYQA), a leadership program giving incoming first-year and transfer students the opportunity to build community, engage in service-learning across New York City, and develop as leaders
- Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC) Gatherings, a series designed to build community centering queer and trans people of color
- Safe Zone, a three-hour training that provides students, faculty, and staff with the foundational language and knowledge to better support LGBTQ+ communities both on and off campus
- Trans Awareness Week, a week of events and programs that focus on the experiences of transgender and nonbinary communities and educate participants on how to practice better allyship
- Lavender Graduation, an end-of-year celebration honoring graduating LGBTQ+ students and our annual leadership award winners
I’m thrilled to have the chance to meet and talk with all of you. And I’m even more excited by the opportunity we have to work together to make all of NYU more welcoming and inclusive for LGBTQ+ communities.