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Auraria Campus’ LGBTQ Student Resource Center adds director

Tyrell Allen wants to help people find their communities.

By Josie Lavender

September 27, 2021

Tyrell AllenIn August, Roadrunners gained a valuable leader when Tyrell Allen (she/they) chose to leave her home in northern Colorado to join the Auraria Campus community as director of the LGBTQ Student Resource Center.

Before accepting her role on the Auraria Campus, she served as the assistant director for Campus Activities at Colorado State University’s Lory Student Center. Allen holds a bachelor’s degree in Africana Studies and a master’s degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs Leadership from the University of Northern Colorado.

She spoke with the Early Bird about the experiences that shaped who she is today and her hopes for the Auraria Campus:

What sparked your interest in the Auraria Campus?

Allen: I’ve largely worked at four-year schools that serve traditional-age students and aren’t particularly diverse. I wanted a different experience, and I got exactly that.

Can you share some insight into what your higher-education experience was like and how it has influenced the work you do with students?

Allen: I never really critically thought about what it means for me to be Black and LGBT until college. College was the first time I met people who weren’t used to seeing me. I experienced a lot of very difficult things because people didn’t know what to do with me as a queer person, as a Black person. There was just a lot of misunderstanding. Part of what I hope to do now as a professional is help people find the communities that they need and deserve and also help people learn how to work better across differences.

What does community mean to you?

Allen: Community is often about close proximity or shared experience, so I belong to many communities whether I want to or not. What’s tricky about that is that for those communities to feel good, you often need resources that many people don’t have, and so we’re just clumped together and expected to make it make sense. My hope is that we can cultivate a community where we have the resources we need to feel full and to pursue the education we came here for. Some of that is fundamentally about seeing ourselves in one another. It takes time, it takes resources, and it takes energy.

How can the Auraria Campus and MSU Denver better serve marginalized students?

Allen: A very basic thing people can do in general is to learn to be more proactive about the things that they don’t know or don’t understand. As an example, I identify as mostly able-bodied. For me, that is an area of privilege I have, which means I have the ongoing responsibility to learn about the needs of folks who are disabled so I can make sure that my work is as accessible as possible, while amplifying disabled voices along the way. Alongside that, I would say the Auraria Campus can keep an open mind about having those conversations. There’s this hyper-fear of being offensive that in some ways is getting in people’s way. I think it’s important for us to acknowledge that we will make mistakes, but we can work to figure out how to respond to said mistakes and we can keep learning. The goal is not to make sure that you know how to say the right things always; it’s to make sure that you can be adaptable and respond to things. We have to be patient with ourselves, but we also have to be committed.

What are you excited for next?

Allen: I genuinely enjoy and appreciate the six student-employees whom I currently work with in the center because they’re all caring, brilliant and committed individuals. I’m excited to continue working with them, to meet more people, learn the space and keep making things make sense. We also have a couple of events coming up that I’m looking forward to. We’re doing a tri-institutional event called “I love my Undocuqueer People” in October featuring nationally acclaimed poet Yosimar Reyes. We’re also partnering with the student-government association at CU Denver for a tri-institutional event in November called “Not So Straight Sex Ed” that is intended to be a more queer- and trans-inclusive version of sex education.

Topics: Arrivals and departures, Community, Hiring, LGBTQ Student Resource Center

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