The Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success’ history on campus


Design by Maria Albers, photo special to the Iowa State Daily archives

“Brad Freihoefer has recently been appointed the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered Student Services coordinator at Iowa State University,” said the cutline of the photo by Ronnie Miller in 2008.

Logan Metzger

With LGBTQIA+ History Month in full swing, it is time to look back at LGBTQIA+ history at Iowa State and in particular, the home of the LGBTQIA+ community at Iowa State: The Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success.

“We look at our center space as part of LGBTQIA+ history at Iowa State,” said Brad Freihoefer, director of the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success. “We have one of the oldest LGBTQIA+ centers at [a] college or university in the country. That’s really kind of amazing.”

Before the Center even existed, the LGBTQIA+ community was unsure if an LGBTQIA+ campus position was even attainable.

In February of 1991, the Iowa State Daily published an article by Jennifer Wilson that covered the possibility of the graduate student position.

According to the article, the position was unofficially titled “Coordinator for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns” and would be open as a part-time graduate assistant job, housed in the Dean of Students Office.

The position all came down to funding.

Mary Beth Snyder, dean of students at the time, said in the article, “This is all part of the budget discussion for next year. It is 85 to 90 percent certain the position will receive funding.”

Snyder said in the article she would like to see the person in the position “raise awareness and sensitivity on campus relative to special concerns of this group.”

There must have been funding available, as the center was opened around November 18, 1992, in 62 Memorial Union, and it was staffed by only one part-time graduate assistant who ended up working 20 hours per week, according to the Center’s website.

At that time, the office was called the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Student Services (LGBSS), and the mission was to “develop programs and services to better the campus climate for LGB students” and to “coordinate efforts to retain LGB students at ISU.”

The next change came in the fall of 1996; the LGBSS expanded its name to better reflect the services and outreach to students who identify under the transgender umbrella. The office was renamed Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Student Services (LGBTSS).

In 1997, administrators in the Dean of Students office recognized the need for more resources to support LGBTSS and began lobbying for the office to be staffed full-time by a professional.

Since then, the office continued under the leadership of graduate assistants who collaborated with student leaders, staff and faculty to improve the services and programs offered, including the expansion of the Speaker’s Bureau and creation of the Small Victories Celebration, Lavender Graduation and a Safe Zone program. Many of these programs continue to the current day.

In fall 2008, the first full-time professional staff member was hired to coordinate LGBTSS. This was Freihofer.

Before coming to Iowa State, Freihoefer received a bachelor’s degree in women’s studies from Minnesota State University in Mankato and worked as a sexual violence advocate, responding to crisis situations in his home county.

At Minnesota State, Freihoefer said they worked with the second-oldest LGBTQIA+ program in the country and served as a face and name for LGBTQIA+ issues on campus.

“I’m going to bring excitement to talk about these issues,” Freihoefer said in an Iowa State Daily article by James Pusey. “I want to change the atmosphere of the LGBT student services office and make sure all students feel that they’re welcomed there.”

At the time, Freihoefer said their first goal was to make sure students know what the LGBT student services office is. They said they would primarily serve as support for students, but would also be creating programs to educate people about LGBTQIA+ issues.

“I want to help students, that’s what it really comes down to,” Freihoefer said in the article. “Students coming out, especially, is a difficult process and I want to help students get through that process. I want to help them feel safe.”

At some point during its history, LGBTSS moved from the Memorial Union to 1064 Student Services Building, where it remained until 2018.

In Fall 2010 there was an expansion of LGBTSS in an attempt to offer a more student-friendly space full of resources for the campus community. The expansion was reported in an Iowa State Daily article by Adam Hayes.

The process of converting the old space, which was housed in a library room, into the current center involved packing up and moving all of the belongings into a new room down the hall before construction took place.

A door was removed, a wall was knocked out and general renovations took place to make more room for students. It took more than three-and-a-half weeks, prior to the school year starting in 2010, to complete the entire process.

“We wanted it to be a place where people felt comfortable,” Freihoefer said in the article.

The renovated space featured DVD and VHS players to watch material, a microwave, TV, chairs and a table and couch.

“[The new center is] a lot roomier,” said Nick York, a freshman in mechanical engineering at the time. “There was a definite need for an upgrade with the amount of people we have.”

The new library featured a collection of more than 400 books and 50 DVDs on issues about sexual orientation and gender identity that were available for students.

Some of the items in the center were purchased using the budget the LGBTSS was allotted at the time, but many of the items were also donated, including some of the books, the couch, DVD and VHS players and TV.

The new resources and space were an upgrade from the table, four chairs and bookshelves the previous space offered.

“When I walked in, I was like, ‘Whoa, this center is twice the size and you can fit more people in here,'” said Ariel Jetty, a sophomore in animal ecology at the time. “I like the colors, too; it’s very welcoming.”

In June of 2015, Freihoefer was no longer alone. Clare Lemke, the former assistant director for the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success, joined the staff.

“This position came about at just the right time,” Lemke said in an Iowa State Daily article in 2016. “I was finishing my Ph.D. and knew that I was interested in working in student services.”

During the summer of 2016, Lemke and Freihoefer bought new furniture and artwork for the center space. Some of the new additions included a new powder blue couch and multi-colored sets of chairs. Also, an old bookcase was removed, exposing a bright yellow wall and adding space for activities.

“It’s all bright and colorful,” Lemke said in the article. “We like to be inviting and fun.”

Other updates since the original space included computers with free printing, Apple TV, whiteboards for advertising and board games.

The next big change came in the summer of 2017. After more than a decade since its inception, the office expanded its name, mission and vision in an attempt to better reflect the range of student identities. It became the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success.

In a historic move, the Center expanded once again and moved to 3224 Memorial Union on Dec. 21. This move more than doubled the space of the Center.

At 5 p.m. March 5, the doors were opened for the first time at the new location in 3224 Memorial Union.

One of the big gains of the Center moving to the new space was the ability to have a wellness room, which has no screens in it and has lavender walls to set a calming mood. The wellness room is used for quiet studying, praying, meditation or just a place to reflect.

Other things the Center gained are a storage room, a meeting room, an entire wall covered with whiteboards, two new TVs and an entire wall near one of the exits lined with safe-sex supplies such as lube, condoms and dental dams.

All furniture and assets of the new Center space were made possible due to donors that Freihoefer thanked during a speech at the welcome.

“I think that is long overdue and that the LGBTQIA+ community on campus clearly needed a space for community, for support, for resources,” said Martino Harmon, senior vice president of student affairs, in an article covering the opening.