Kent State’s Korb Hall Is Home to New LGBTQA Living-Learning Community
Kent State University’s Department of Residence Services has established a new living-learning community for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and asexual (LGBTQA) students and their allies in the newly renovated Korb Hall this fall. The community of 25 students will find a home on one floor in Korb Hall, which is open to students of all class standings.
“The new LGBTQA Living-Learning Community helps demonstrate Residence Services and Kent State’s commitment to providing an inclusive environment,” says Jill Church, director of Residence Services at Kent State. “When students are selecting a university, hopefully, they will see this option and know this is a place that has thought about them and thought about providing support to help them get adjusted and integrated into the campus community more quickly.”
Church says the living-learning community came about through years of positive input and collaboration.
“Residence Services has offered gender-inclusive housing options for some time now, but over the years, we got some feedback from PRIDE! Kent and Trans*Fusion asking for opportunities to broaden the number of halls available to accommodate varying academic class standings and socioeconomic needs,” Church says. “It was a no-brainer. In 2014, we were able to broaden our number of halls, update our policy and our practice, and include information on how students can find support for their specific needs by contacting the director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Student Center.”
That year, Church says, PRIDE! Kent, Trans*Fusion and the LGBTQ Student Center met with Residence Services to begin talks of including a LGBTQA Living-Learning Community on campus. A survey gauging students’ interest showed an overwhelming response of support for a new LGBTQA Living-Learning Community. Over the past year, Residence Services partnered with Ken Ditlevson, director of the LGBTQ Student Center, and Molly Merryman, director of the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, to create the LGBTQA Living-Learning Community.
“We’re proud and hope it will be a success this year,” Church says. “Part of that success will be having our hall staff work closely with Molly Merryman and Ken Ditlevson in relation to the programing and activities provided for students, as well as the academic component.”
Ditlevson also believes the new LGBTQA Living-Learning Community will not only provide additional support for students, but also include a focus on education.
“For the LGBTQ community, this is huge,” Ditlevson says. “In talking with families during Destination Kent State, the university’s new student orientation, I could see a sense of relief when students and parents found out about this new community with emphasis on learning about this academic area. The living-learning community is going to strengthen the LGBTQ community in having one more resource available for our students, but I think it’s also going to draw students who want to be immersed in those studies to Kent State.”
Students in the LGBTQA Living-Learning Community will each semester get to take a course in the LGBTQ Studies program that is set aside for them as a distinct learning community. Lauren Vachon, professor of the program, will teach the LGBTQ core classes. Students will have a chance to interact with a range of LGBTQ Studies affiliate faculty members in small-group lectures, discussions and other activities.
Academics play an integral role in the new living-learning community, says Merryman, a professor of sociology at Kent State and director of the LGBTQ and Women’s Studies programs in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“Without the academic component, this is only a living community,” Merryman says. “The courses are the learning part. It is important that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and asexual people and their allies learn the history, literature, culture, science and social science legacy of LGBTQA people. Because of the lack of acceptance LGBTQA people have in our society, these topics are not taught in K-12 education or even in many college courses.”
Helping to establish this living-learning community holds special meaning for Merryman.
“It is extremely important for me to be involved in the development of this living-learning community,” Merryman says. “Faculty also crave to be part of a community, and we want to have opportunities to more closely interact with our students. I teach a lot of online classes, which I enjoy, but I miss the day-to-day casual connection with students. With this living-learning community, other faculty and I can just hang out with students.
“I also feel that this has been one of the missing links at Kent State. We have the oldest LGBTQ Studies program in the state, we have an energetic new director for our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Student Center, we have incredible LGBTQ student organizations, and now we will have a living-learning community dedicated to LGBTQA students and any students who care about and want to learn more about LGBTQ topics and concerns.”
For more information about the Department of Residence Services at Kent State, visit www.kent.edu/housing.
For more information about Kent State’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies program, visit www.kent.edu/lgbt.
For more information about the Kent State’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Student Center, visit www.kent.edu/lgbtq.