10 Questions With LGBTQA Resource Center Director Allison Subasic
National Coming Out Week at Penn State concluded just a few weeks ago after an exciting myriad of events and talks from keynote speakers. Even though Penn State was ranked among some of the most LGBTQA-friendly universities in the country, LGBTQA Resource Center Director Allison Subasic thinks national events like these are of major importance to college campuses.
We talked with Subasic as she reflected on her years at Penn State, the success of National Coming Out Day and Week, and how the LGBTQA Resource Center will continue to promote diversity and acceptance on campus.
Onward State: Tell us a little about yourself. When did you join the team at the LGBTQA Resource Center? What did you do before coming to Penn State?
Allison Subasic: “I have been at Penn State for the past 15 years. I came from the UC system in California. I was at UC Davis for about 20 years — first for school, then to work on campus, and then eventually to be the first coordinator of the LGBT Center on campus. I helped to start that center and then was hired as the first full time professional. I also worked to get LGBTQ resources in the UC system such as domestic partner benefits for staff and employees and helped to start the UC LGBTQIA system-wide LGBTQA committee. We did a lot of work on campus for the queer community and it was an exciting time. I also worked as a campus diversity facilitator and sexual harassment advisor.”
OS: What made you want to come work at the Resource Center at Penn State?
AS: “I loved what I was doing at UC Davis but it was time for a change. I applied for a number of positions on the east coast and was offered two. I took this one because Penn State was poised to move forward with the program and make changes in a positive way for the LGBTQA community here. My partner was also living and working at Penn State so it was perfect!”
OS: What are some of your duties as director?
AS: “Gosh — this is always hard — there is never a “typical day”, which makes it fun. I do a lot of administrative things, such as meetings (lots of meetings) and general vision and planning. I also supervise staff, work with interns, spend too much time answering emails, and collaborate on various events on campus. I work to bring various constituents on campus together such as faculty partners and other directors. I do a large variety of training on and off campus as well. I also mentor other new directors around the country, advise student groups, and work with alumni and the alumni board of the center. Likewise, I am typically the main media contact and I’m in charge of the overall budget for the office. I get to work with the Commonwealth campuses and sit in on a variety of campus committees. I spend a lot of my time with students and I work to find resources for students in need. I also do the preferred name changes for students at all campuses.”
OS: What’s changed at the center since you came on as director?
AS: “So much has changed. When I arrived it was a graduate student named Naomi and myself, four book shelves with books, and three small rooms. We have grown to a full-time staff of four, a graduate student, and an undergraduate intern program. The number of students we serve has increased tremendously as well. It is often so busy in the center that there are no chairs for students to sit in so they spread out on the floor. The number of programs and training we do has increased as well. Penn State has also become one of the best in the country for our affirmative policies and procedures in this area. “
OS: What’s your favorite part of working at the LGBTQA Resource Center?
AS: “Definitely the students…I love the students. I get to work with some of the most wonderful, diverse, smart, compassionate, and caring students in the country. I will really, really miss them when I retire. I have a great staff too, it makes my job easier and I enjoy coming in and seeing them each day.”
AS: “National Coming Out Day and Week was very successful, we always have a great group of speakers for keynotes and fun events for student visibility. I think the drag show is always really popular for the whole campus. This year’s speakers focused on transgender visibility and the history of the queer movement –specifically how HIV and AIDS affected the community in the 80’s and forward.”
OS: In your opinion, why is it important to host nationwide pride events like Coming Out Week at this university?
AS: “Events such as Pride Week, Transgender Visibility and Remembrance week, and National Coming Out Week are important for campus communities. They help the community be visible and they help educate the campus community about important issues and topics to LGBTQA individuals. It is also a time for our community to show our pride and celebrate.”
OS: What are your plans for creating more LGBTQA-inclusive events at Penn State?
AS: “We will continue to collaborate with other advocacy centers on campus — faculty and academic units — and we will work to continue a dialogue about the intersectionality within the LGBTQA community.”
OS: Penn State was ranked in the the top 30 for LGBTQA-friendly universities in 2016 by Campus Pride in August. What role do you think the LGBTQA Resource Center plays in making Penn State a more LGBTQA-friendly place?
AS: “A lot of the areas Campus Pride looks at for this ranking has to do with what programs and support are available on campus, much of which is offered through the LGBTQA Student Resource Center. Some of the ranking is because of the great policies and procedures we follow here at Penn State and the rest are due to the fact that we have Ally house, a way to support our transgender students, discussion groups, a mentorship program for students, a speakers bureau, and a sexuality and gender studies minor, etc. All of this adds up to having great resources for students here at Penn State.”
OS: Finally, if you could be a dinosaur, which one would you be and why?
AS: “Actually one that was vegetarian…I could not kill other animals for food. Dracorex is rather cute.”