Queering Arizona

Student conference encourages cross-campus collaboration

By Laura Latzko - Feb. 12, 2015

Each semester, student leaders from across Arizona work to make a difference and bring change to their respective campuses and communities.

And, in its fifth year, the Queering Arizona Conference – set for Feb. 28 at Arizona State University’s Polytechnic Campus – provides an opportunity for LGBT students from across Arizona to converge, share ideas, learn from and listen to each other and further develop as community and campus leaders and activists.

Queering Arizona, the only LGBT-focused student conference in the state, started as an informal gathering of students from various schools at UofA in 2010. Just four years later, in 2014, 140 students from around the state participated.

For the duration of the one-day conference, 150 registered students, representing ASU, Northern Arizona University, University of Arizona as well as community colleges from throughout the state, will participate in a variety of activities.

Francisco Galarte, a professor from the UofA’s department of gender and women’s studies, will kick off the day’s itinerary with a keynote speech.

Then a variety of interactive workshops will facilitate engagement on topics related to activism and identity as well as the opportunity to talk openly about their personal experiences, campus climates and schools’ LGBT-focused programs, groups and activities. Students, local leaders, educators and members of community organizations, such as the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation and HERO, will lead workshops.

“Students are coming from all over the state and from many different levels – We really try to meet [them] where they are,” said Lauren Pring, an adjunct professor in UofA’s Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and a conference planning committee chair. “Some students are studying queer theory while other students are just starting to get involved in queer activism or just coming out on their campuses.”

According to Pring, the conference encourages different types of students – from active student leaders to individuals just starting to get involved – to take what they’ve learned and apply it on their campuses and in their communities.

Committees of students and faculty from ASU, the UofA and NAU help plan and coordinate the conference, and, according to Pring, the conference has always been centered on what the students want and need.

Each year, the conference includes workshops for students with varying backgrounds, experiences and interests which cover topics related to different LGBT identities, including asexuals and pansexuals.

“The goal really is to get students talking to each other and get students thinking about the issue at hand and actually working with it during the session rather than just receiving the information,” Pring said.

Jennifer Hoefle-Olsen, a member of the coordinating committee for the event and program director for LGBTQ Affairs at the UofA, said during the preliminary meetings, participants talked about issues facing LGBT students on their campuses and strategies for advocacy on campus – conversations that guided

the workshop selection process.

Thus far, Pring said, the conference has been successful in fostering student leadership, adding that after each conference students report getting more involved on their campuses.

“We’ve had students actually tell us they got highly involved on their campus where they hadn’t before because of [this] opportunity to connect with students and to learn,” Pring said.

Conference admission is free and the registration deadline is Feb. 12. Space is limited, but students can contact Lauren Pring at pring@email.arizona.edu to get on a waiting list once the event is full.

Queering Arizona Conference

10 a.m.-6 p.m. Feb. 28

ASU Polytechnic Campus

7001 E. Williams Field Road, Mesa

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