LGBTQ Center breaks ground

April 16, 2014 -- On Wednesday morning, the LGBTQ Center at the University of Rhode Island celebrated its groundbreaking at 19 Upper College Road. Designed by LLB Architects, the $2.1 million center will be 4,300 sf and is expected to open in spring 2015. Government officials, including Governor Lincoln Chafee and state senator Frank Ferri, were present at the event alongside URI’s President David M. Dooley, URI Chief Diversity Officer Naomi R. Thompson, the center’s director Annie Russell, and representatives from LLB Architects and Nadeau Corp., the design and construction team. “It’s a great moment for the University of Rhode Island to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity that’s part of our community now and will be in the future,” said Dooley. “As we have said in our transformational goals, building a community in which every member is welcomed, supported, and valued is essential to our identity and mission."

Part of the university’s commitment to diversity is aimed to serve lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. According to URI, it is the first institution of higher education in the country to design and build a free-standing LGBTQ center for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer community.

The center, currently located in Adams Hall, will occupy the site of the former Ruggles House located at the entrance of the Kingston campus near the Office of Admission and the Women’s Center. The new single-story stone and clapboard building will have a long veranda along the front and will house multipurpose rooms for conferences and group counseling, student lounge, resource area, and offices for the director and staff members. Additionally, site development will include parking and landscaping.

The center will improve the experience and lives of the LGBTQ community and the larger academic community at URI by providing a welcoming environment and implementing meaningful programs and services. The project is part of URI’s Office of Community, Equity and Diversity, which is focused on developing a more LGBTQ-inclusive community. As part of the university’s effort to provide a unique and supportive academic experience to all of its students, URI is focused on implementing gender-inclusive policies and events, creating a Living and Learning Community focused on gender and sexuality, which is academically linked to the Gender and Women’s Studies program, and expanding gender transition coverage in the student health plan starting in the fall of 2014.

According to the university, the LGBTQ Center started 27 new programs, services, groups and initiatives in the 2011-12 academic year, and added more than 50 more in the fall of 2012. This year alone, the center has housed more than 100 programs, which some have been adopted by other higher education institutions nationwide and internationally.

There is no doubt that URI is leading the way in providing a gender-inclusive academic community through programs initiated by the LGBTQ Center. Through the Safe Zone Program, Russell and her staff have designed and taught numerous workshops aimed at educating members of the university community on basic issues affecting the LGBTQ community. The passion of Russell and her staff, including URI and the academic community at large, reveals a strong commitment to develop purposeful academic and personal identity development within the URI community. “The building is located in the main gateway of our campus. And I think that sends a message that URI is about inclusion; that there is a space and a voice for LGBTQ students on this campus,” said Russell.

Read more about the LGBTQ Center and see these related articles from University of Rhode Island, NBC 10, RI NPR, Providence Journal, and Providence Business News (subscription required).