Morgen Snowadzky was hesitant before approaching the Queer Student Union table at Temple Fest in 2012. She grabbed a promotional button and quickly sped out of sight.
“Not everybody feels super comfortable walking up to a table,” said Snowadzky, a senior women’s studies major.
She would have preferred to learn about the QSU in a more neutral, supportive environment with other LGBTQIA students, so she created a Welcome Week event that would provide just that.
Snowadzky, assistant to the director of the Wellness Resource Center, spearheaded the creation of OuTU, a Welcome Week event focused specifically on promoting LGBTQIA-friendly resources, organizations and events at Temple to interested incoming students.
OuTU was held on Aug. 21 from 2 to 4 p.m. in Student Center Room 217A. Organizers from the WRC believe OuTU is the first Welcome Week event of its kind.
At OuTU, students participated in ice breakers facilitated by event volunteers recruited from across Temple’s student organizations and departments. They also listened to university speakers.
Snowadzky organized OuTU over the summer with two fellow HEART Peer Educators from the WRC, John Valkovec and Halley Balkovich, both senior public health majors.
“When I was an incoming student here at Temple, I was not out, but I wanted to find some sort of community that I could identify with and maybe make that transition,” Valkovec said. “I really had a big investment in OuTU because of that.”
The three seniors compiled all of the information they had learned about LGBTQIA resources at Temple and presented it to incoming students during Welcome Week.
Some of this information they had only recently learned from university guests at the WRC’s Queer Lunch program.
Queer Lunch, organized by Snowadzky last year and continued this year invites students, faculty and staff to discuss LGBTQIA topics on a monthly basis.
“I think [Temple] has a decent number of queer resources,” Valkovec said. “I think the problem with it is they’re not organized, and I think this is the first time that they’ve ever been all organized into one place.”
The event’s turnout of about 160 was well above the 50 students organizers expected.
“I saw a lot of people making friends or exchanging phone numbers or looking each other up on Facebook, so that was real sweet,” Snowadzky said.
At the event, the WRC debuted the “Student Guide to LGBTQIA Life at Temple University,” which includes definitions of terms like intersex and genderism, and also includes a guide to change one’s name and where to find gender neutral bathrooms on Main Campus.
“There’s a lot of little bits and pieces of resources available in a bunch of different places,” Snowadzky said.
The guide was created to centralize the location of information and will soon be available online, Snowadzky said.
OuTU also featured a number of speakers from campus resources and student organizations, like Carmen Phelps, who heads the university’s Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership.
“Temple doesn’t have centers dedicated to various affinity groups,” Phelps said. “And so that was really important to me that they understand that I was invested in them, that I am invested in them.”
Phelps believes OuTU could have drawn in a more racially diverse crowd.
“I can see the opportunities that exist … to get students more involved with one another across racial, ethnic lines,” Phelps said.
Phelps did not suggest a more inclusive outreach strategy to student organizers prior to the event.
Snowadzky hopes something like “OuTU” can happen on an annual basis for freshmen, though nothing is planned for Welcome Week 2016 as of now.
“We have all the things in place,” Snowadzky said. “And I think we made a lot of really important connections that will make things like this easier.”
Jenny Roberts can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @jennyroberts511.
Editors note: Morgan Snowadzky was a freelance writer at The Temple News in Fall 2012. She played no role in the editing process of this article.