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Thursday, April 17, 2014

URI launches construction of LGBTQ Center

Ceremonial groundbreaking held April 16

KINGSTON, R.I. –State officials and members of the University of Rhode Island community broke ground today for a new LGBTQ Center on Upper College Road. 

When the $2.1 million, 4,300 square foot site is completed, URI's new center will be a safe and affirming place for all members of the community. 

URI is the first institution of higher education in the country to design and build a free standing LGBTQ Center.

Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee, other state officials, URI President David M. Dooley, Chief Diversity Officer Naomi R. Thompson, LGBTQ Center Director Annie Russell and students participated in the ceremonial launch of construction at 19 Upper College Road, the site of the old Ruggles House, a vacant URI building that will be razed.

“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. 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," said URI President David M. Dooley. "Located at the entrance of our Kingston Campus on Upper College Road, near our Office of Admission and our Women's Center, this new building will clearly show our firm support for all members of the community."

Designed to give URI’s LBGTQ community a strong identity, the single story, stone and clapboard building will have a veranda running along the front of the center and plans call for its roof to feature ornamental plants and flowers. The Center will have a multipurpose room with a capacity of about 50, a conference room for about 20 people, a group counseling room, and a student lounge. There will be offices for the director, three staff members and student staff members. The Center is part of URI's Office of Community, Equity and Diversity.

The contractor is Nadeau Corp. of South Attleboro, Mass., and the architect is LLB Architects of Pawtucket. Completion is projected for spring of 2015.

The current staff of the LGBTQ Center located in Adams Hall has developed and uses a strategic planning process to build and track the success of its programs and initiatives. The center started 27 new programs, services, groups or initiatives in 2011-2012 and added more than 50 more in fall 2012 resulting in more than 75 initiatives within just two years. This year alone, the center has hosted more than 100 programs and participation is growing. The URI programs and approaches have been adopted by more than 15 institutions nationwide and one internationally.

In addition, Russell and her staff have designed and led numerous Safe Zone workshops at several different levels for all members of the University community. 

About URI's Community, Equity and Diversity and LGBTQ Initiatives

• URI's Community, Equity and Diversity Office was established in 2011
• Two new presidential commissions have been established: LGBTQ Presidential Commission in and Faculty, Staff and Students of Color
• The LGBT+ Alumni & Friends Chapter was formed in fall 2010
• First formal budget for URI's LGBTQ Center was established and the strategic planning process in place has achieved many positive results
• More than 15 national institutions and one international institution use URI’s LGBTQ programs/services and strategic planning process as a model
• "It Gets Better" video - more than 100 participants were involved and about $8,000 was raised in two weeks to fund this compelling project. The video aired with tremendous success and was featured on Rhode Island PBS
• Supporting university-wide awareness of community, equity and diversity:
o 20th anniversary of the LGBTQ Center Symposium held this year featured the first openly gay bishop of the Episcopal Church of America, Gene Robinson. It was one of several well-attended programs held during the symposium.
o 20,000 Voices: Exploring Big Questions about Community, Equity, and Diversity at URI. University-wide events have been held over the last few years to engage all members of the community in building the inclusive environment that President Dooley has described in URI's Transformational Goals.

LGBTQ Center and Program Improvements 

• URI is the first institution in the country to design and build a free standing LGBTQ Center
• The University established permanent director, full time coordinator, part-time coordinator, and graduate assistant positions with internships/practicum opportunities 
• The center started 27 new programs, services, groups or initiatives in 2011-2012 and added more than 50 more in fall 2012 resulting in more than 75 initiatives within just two years.
• More than 1,000 students, faculty, and staff have participated in Safe Zone 101 workshops since the fall of 2012.
• Helping to foster URI's gender-inclusive policies, facilities and language usage university-wide
• The LGBTQ Center's comprehensive assessment model allows it to measure community participation, interest and approval of all events and programs.
• There were 1,200 visits to the current center located in Adams Hall last year and as of March 2014, more than 6,000 people already have been served through programs and visits to the center this year
• A Living Learning Community focused on gender and sexuality was created, which is academically connected to Gender and Women’s Studies. Plans include creating an academic track in in this program and, the first course focused on gender and sexuality has been offered. 
• Health Services will expand to be more LGBTQ inclusive for students, faculty, and staff; Beginning in fall 2014, URI will add gender transition coverage in the student health plan.