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LGBTQ Center hires new assistant director Caitlin O’Neill

New assistant director Caitlin O’Neill brings experience from UT Austin, Yale, Oberlin

Caitlin O’Neill joined the University’s LGBTQ Center as a new assistant director Dec. 9, 2019.

According to the LGBTQ Center’s Director Kelly Garrett, the assistant director position arose from a previous program coordinator position during the summer of 2017. “Before we had any assistant director position, I really just couldn’t keep up with all of the demands,” Garrett said. “For years, it was kind of known that I needed more help.”

Garrett stressed that “having an assistant director has really allowed (the LGBTQ Center) to grow and do higher-quality programming, do more outreach, do more intentional student development and have more time and space to work with students.”

During fall 2019, Garrett operated without an assistant director when Je-Shawna Wholley, who formerly held the position, left in August 2019. Wholley had started at the center as program coordinator in fall 2016, The Herald previously reported.

While the search for a new assistant director took place fall 2019, “we had four top folks we were looking at. Three had the invitation to come to campus,” Garrett said.  In order to solicit feedback on the new hire, candidates were introduced to various University community members, Garrett said.

O’Neill had previously visited the University when they attended the Consortium of High Achievement (CHAS/ITP) Symposium hosted at Brown March 2019. “CHAS is a group that works with select liberal arts colleges and has an opportunity for folks, particularly staff members who work (to support) students of diverse identities and experiences,” O’Neill said. Through the connections they made at the CHAS Symposium, O’Neill was able to find out about the job announcement when it came out the following summer. “I just thought that the people that I engaged with were incredibly thoughtful,” O’Neill said. “I really loved that Brown is a student-centered space.”

O’Neill brings a wealth of experience to the University. This summer, they completed their PhD in African American Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. O’Neill was also a Sarah Pettit Doctoral Fellow in Lesbian Studies at Yale University in 2016, according to an email sent to members of student organization Queer Alliance. O’Neill was also the Assistant Director of the Multicultural Resource Center at Oberlin College, where they earned a certificate in Social Justice Mediation.

“I really liked the idea of bringing someone with a mixed administrative and academic background to Brown, (and) thought that would be a good fit for our center, and the work we want to do, as well as working with students here,” Garrett said.

Currently, Garrett and O’Neill are in the process of hiring student staff members for the LGBTQ Center. These positions include two undergraduate student programmers, one graduate coordinator position, one archivist, one graphic design and publicity coordinator and one special projects coordinator.

For most of the student staff member interviews, Garrett and O’Neill have conducted them together. Before each interview conducted to date, the two discussed the successes of past student staff members, whose qualities they seek in new candidates, O’Neill said, adding that each interview includes a question about what students would like out of an ideal supervisory relationship when working with either of them.

“It’s been really excellent hearing from students, how incredibly intelligent they are, and how much they really thought about what kinds of relationships they want to have with each other as they’re working as a team, and what kinds of relationships they want to have with people who are supervising them,” O’Neill said. “It demonstrates, to me, an alignment of all of our different values about what we want to look like as a team, and how we can be there for each other in terms of crafting this idea of a vision for the center.”

Moving forward, Garrett and O’Neill strive to form a greater connection with graduate students in addition to undergraduate students. Garrett also mentioned that the LGBTQ Center is in an “exploration phase” with Computing and Information Services to help make identifying pronouns easier for students.

O’Neill looks forward to working with the new student staff members to “craft a larger identity and (establish) the way that the center wants to leave its mark on campus together.”



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