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Sexual orientation center at UCSD biggest of its kind in U.S.

Traditionally at the forefront of science and engineering, UCSD now leads the nation in supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The new Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center, part of a recent addition to UCSD’s Student Center, is the largest such facility at any public institution of higher education in the United States. The center aims to enhance the sense of connection among faculty, staff, students and alumni, as well as with the larger UCSD community.

Chief architects Jim Brown and James Gates of the award-winning firm Public designed the 2,700-square-foot facility.

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Inside, students gather in a large common space with comfortable couches and chairs alongside a lending library and kitchen. The library houses more than 2,000 books, journals and films that offer a wealth of information on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender themes.

Visitors can check out a laptop from the David Bohnett Wireless CyberCenter, the only wireless computer lab on the UCSD campus. By allowing users to move throughout the center while working, the laptops create an integrated social and academic atmosphere. A $22,000 grant from the David Bohnett Foundation, whose mission is to provide state-of-the-art technology to innovative social activist organizations, made the cybercenter possible.

Support for the center has also come from Michael Marx, co-founder of the Michael L. Marx and Donald K. Marshall Scholarship for Gay and Lesbian Students, an annual scholarship for continuing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students at UCSD. Marx recently donated a bronze sculpture, “Lady and Bear,” by Boris Blai, a student of August Rodin.

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A conference room, meeting room and staff offices complete the center. Staff named the meeting room the Heritage Room because it is similar in size to the original Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Office, established by Chancellor Robert Dynes in November 1999. The office expanded rapidly and was renamed a “center,” moving to a larger location near the administrative complex near Gilman parking structure in February 2002.

Further growth has necessitated the establishment of a spacious, permanent home for the center. Its director, Shaun Travers, praised the UCSD administration for its dedication to diversity.

“The center represents a fundamental, longterm commitment from UC President Bob Dynes and UCSD Chancellor Marye Anne Fox to a diverse, open and public space for all members of the university community to explore issues relating to sexual and gender identities, practices and politics,” he said.

Today, three full-time professionals and eight student employees work toward the mission of community awareness.

When lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students arrive at UCSD, they face typical challenges as they adjust to their new environment, with the complication that their sexual orientation is a main factor of identification. Some are anxious about encountering ridicule or hostility. The center tries to ensure that all students feel welcome by creating a visible, active presence.

Every fall since 2001, the center sponsors Q-camp, a daylong orientation that introduces freshmen and transfers to on-campus resources, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-related courses, and helps them connect to others who are going through similar experiences. Students become acquainted with the host of organizations and programs that operate throughout the year.

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A variety of organizations meet at the resource center, from the oldest and biggest - the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queen/Questioning Intersex Association - to specialized groups like Queer by Nature, a wilderness exploration club.

Center staff members coordinate the Queer Peer Support Group, which