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UNR Queer Grad Collective

The Queer Grad Collective (QGC) is an officially-sanctioned Graduate Student Association (GSA) University of Reno (UNR) social club.  I met via Zoom this week with M (she/her/they/them) to learn more about them and the club’s origins.

M is a grad student pursuing a Masters in Fine Arts in creative writing, particularly in the genre of science fiction.  They hail from the fine state of Washington. Two years ago, M met Cas (she/her/he/him/they/them) on Lex, a text-centered social app that connects queer lovers and friends (I had to look that one up).  Cas, a Ph.D. candidate in the Environmental Science realm, had posted that there were no queer resources for graduate students at UNR. M and Cas met virtually and quickly came up with a constitution, found a network of students and faculty to support the group, and brought the school on board to found the QGC.

QGC’s mission is to make and create a safe community for queer graduates and people throughout the campus.  They have long-term plans to engage in activism, but for now, they are a social organization.

The group meets currently every other Friday from 11-noon.  They started two years ago in a virtual environment, then moved to in-person, then back on-line.  M said that they generally have about ten to fifteen people attend each meeting.

Right now, they are planning an end-of-semester afternoon picnic bash at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park in Reno sometime in the first two weeks of May. 

M said to join the mailing list or log into Discord (I haven’t figured either of these things out yet) to get the details on the event.

Being a social group, their primary objective is connecting people on campus. They have an Instagram @qgc_unr. And they maintain this elusive listserve that I have yet to find.

M said that their marketing strategy thus far has been

  • Put up flyers at UNR campus bulletin boards
  • Use the QLAB listserve
  • Bulk emails to UNR department
  • Maintain an Instagram presence
  • Set up tables at the GSA club fair and other events
  • Partner with other student organizations, both graduate and undergraduate

They have plans to connect with Our Center in the near future.

When I asked M what they are particularly proud of being involved with at QGC, they said that they are just proud that QGC still exists.  M said that it has been tough in the last two years under COVID-19 restrictions to meet people in a town new to them and get to know each other virtually.

Nonetheless, QGC has partnered with the Associated Students of the University of Nevada (ASUN), the student government of UNR, to host a Q&A for students. They’ve hosted a joint holiday party. They’ve partnered with the undergraduate Queer Student Union (QSU) on a gender-affirming closet exchange and plan to host a mentorship program with them next year. They’ve also partnered with QLAB; the local chapter of Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (oSTEM); and UNR Pride.

When I asked about plans for the future, M said they had no hard plans right now because of the lingering uncertainty of COVID.  M did tell me about their undergraduate queer center in Washington, which had its own dedicated space, held book clubs, support groups, and bitch and stitches. Though M didn’t specifically say that was the goal, we did discuss how it would be great to have a place where all the LGBTQ organizations could meet and hold space.

Like me, M is excited to attend their first Pride in Nevada and see how the Biggest Little City does it.  When I asked what is one of M’s favorite queer spaces or events in Reno, they told me the Holland Project. I had never heard about it before; M says it’s an all-ages venue with a really cool art space and art classes.  M looks forward to going to a show there soon.

When I asked M what they want people to know about QGC, they said they want people to know that QGC is working to foster the first explicit community on the UNR campus for queer graduate students.  QGC is achieving this through community building activities and hopes to continue in the future with social activism and engagement.

Interview with M Sawan, Co-Founder
M Sawan, Interviewee. Credit: LinkedIn

By Erica Pionke

Erica Pionke moved to Reno/Sparks, Nevada in March 2020 and is finally now getting out into the world and exploring all of its queer offerings with her hilarious and loving partner of 10 years, Debbie.

Erica is an avid outdoorsperson and a self-inflicted seeker of education. She works for the government, in realty, and has a history going back to her earlier years in law school, in real estate, zoning, and land management.

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