On Sept. 27, Dr. Sidney Gardner began her new position as Assistant Dean of Students and Director of the Office of Student Advocacy and support. After almost 20 years running LGBTQ+ and gender centers, this move is an exciting transition for Dr. Gardner to continue supporting students through support services, crisis management, and advocacy.
How do you see your work as the Assistant Dean of Students and Director of the Office of Student Advocacy and Support intersecting with your experiences from the Women and LGBT Center?
“It intersects in a myriad of ways. That’s probably one of the things that I really wish people understood about running a shop like the Women and LGBT center is that there is so much that you don’t see. There are the front-facing parts that are all about programming and student advising and such, but then there are the parts happening behind the scenes–there is a lot of supporting students in crisis and students that are navigating really difficult situations, whether it be homelessness, food insecurity, financial issues, or anything related to Title IX. I have helped students navigate these issues throughout my career, but it’s part of the things that people don’t typically see us doing because it’s not front and center.”
What got you interested in the work you will be doing in your new position?
“I’ve been in the field for a long time, and again, a lot of it has to do with having navigated working with students in crisis for so long. But also, there was a time before the current iteration of Title IX, when a lot of support services fell under women’s centers on campus. I’ve also been doing that work for a really long time–in my previous position at another institution, I had been the deputy Title IX coordinator, I have worked with Title IX investigations, I’ve also served as the confidential support in these sorts of things. So that piece, I have a really strong background in, on top of just working both on campus and off campus to support students that are going through all kinds of personal crises. Because of that, I had really been interested in this type of position for a while—and then it was just good timing.”
What are you most excited about as you make the transition to your new position?
“I’m just excited about being able to support students in a different way—I still get to do some of the work that I love and am able to support students, but I get to be able to do that for our entire campus community and not just students that intersect with my previous position in the Women and LGBT Center. I’m also excited about being able to figure out things like best practices and how we can do an even better job of supporting our students going forward. Those are some things that I’m really looking forward to.”
What are some goals you would like to achieve in your new position?
“My predecessor had built this office from the ground floor during a time when these positions were just starting on campuses, so I think this is a perfect opportunity to be able to look at the work that we currently do and be able to take that to the next level. Now that we’re in a different day, so much of our campuses have changed, the world has changed, our students have changed–so what are their needs? What does the support that they need look like? How can we tailor what we do to have the greatest impact on our students? How can we get them to persist to graduation? That is the goal, but we want people to be able to do that in ways that they feel supported.”
What is your vision for the future of the Office of Student Advocacy and Support?
“My hope is that we are a space that our entire campus community really sees as somewhere that when you send students to, they know that they will be taken care of and that they will have the support and the resources that they need. I hope that other students will feel confident when they say to a friend about us, ‘Hey, you know who really helped me? You should reach out to them too.’ I think we do have some of that dialogue already, but my hope is that throughout the campus community, we’re seen as that space that is really all about exactly what our title is—student advocacy and support. I hope that people really value and express how much the work that we do means to them.”