Creating a welcoming campus
By Liz McCarthy, 803-777-2848
All undergraduate students need a mentor, someone who has been in their shoes who can help them find their own way. For many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students at USC, Kayla Lisenby is that mentor. Lisenby credits her mentor at the University of Alabama with helping her find direction and herself.
“When I started college, I was very sheltered,” said Lisenby, USC's coordinator for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Programs. “Once I got to the university, I began exploring my identity. I was able to do that in a really supportive environment with a lot of folks who were going through the same process. As a higher ed professional now, I realize I had the experience that we hope all students will have.”
At USC, Lisenby hopes to offer that same support to Carolina’s LGBT students. Students can drop by her office with questions or to talk about identity issues. She also plans various events such as the Quench lunch series for students to meet to discuss issues. For LGBT History Month, the office has events planned throughout October.
Lisenby is trying to raise awareness in the general campus community through programs like Safe Zone Ally, which trains faculty and staff members and students to be an ally to LGBT students.
“LGBT students face a lot of unique issues,” Lisenby said. “Having someone to address those issues and support them in their identity development helps them be successful at Carolina overall. Our programming goes back to ensuring our students have a positive experience here.”
Lisenby works in the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, which addresses the concerns of a wide range of student populations and advocates for a welcoming environment for all students.
Lisenby says the state of South Carolina hasn’t always had a good reputation for being inclusive, but she is working to make sure all students feel at home at USC.
“I’m here to ensure that we are continually educating our community and to show support and inclusion of LGBT identities,” she said. “It helps set a precedent that the state can follow. We’re educating the future leaders of our state and by showing this inclusive effort now, these students can carry that with them moving forward.”
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