When Maxwell Olivero started his journey at Michigan State University in 2010, he was pleasantly surprised to find his new school had made a special effort to reach out to him. The New2U program, developed by MSU’s Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender Resource Center (LBGTRC), helped provide him with “a very positive support system” as soon as he arrived on campus.
“New2U made me feel welcome to MSU as a queer student and introduced me to a group of friends that I knew I could be myself around,” said Olivero, who today serves as a field experience coordinator at MSU’s James Madison College. “I attended a variety of events throughout my time at MSU hosted by the LBGTRC, including workshops and social events,” he said. “The Center has continued to be a safe place of support and acceptance for all students, and has helped foster a healthy and vibrant Spartan community.”
“New2U focuses on needs of first-year students, setting them up to have a great experience at Michigan State,” said Deanna Hurlbert, director of LBGTRC.
Now in its fifth year, the six-week New2U program features structured workshops, discussions and guest speakers. Participation is not limited to LGBT students — it also includes people who identify as heterosexuals but passionately support the LGBT social movement.
Beyond New2U, the Center runs a variety of programs that are open to all students, faculty, staff and anyone else who could be described as being part of the MSU community. One of these initiatives is what’s called “motivational interviews.”
During the one-on-one conversations, the LBGTRC staff helps pinpoint what students want to achieve and barriers to getting there, and continues their assistance by helping students brainstorm things they can do to be successful. Using scientifically-rooted techniques, interviewers challenge students with questions about goals regarding personal wellness, who they want to be and what they want to get out of attending MSU.
“Motivational interviews are conversations that help students identify what their goals are in life in areas that they’re not used to being asked about,” Hurlbert said.
Open to all students, these ongoing conversations not only help with their development, but also advance the aims of the Center. According to Hurlbert, the LBGTRC staff uses motivational interviews to track students’ progress, and “be accountable for students on our end and do things we say we’re going to do for them.”
Another factor that’s raising the bar for the Center is a recent $1 million bequest from an anonymous alumnus and his partner. Though the endowment will not be used for years to come, Hurlbert, who serves as director of the LBGTRC, said she believes there is a “short-term and really powerful benefit” from the gift because it “recognizes there are ways that we could better serve the students that come to Michigan State.”
“If we can do those things, then we can change the world,” she said, “which is what Michigan State was created to do.”
By Tia Patsavas