Rosin and Ballas are two of 19 students currently in the LGBTQIA+ Scholars ARC. Both students and their classmates recently completed research about queer history and presented their findings and its significance at the Undergraduate Research Symposium on May 17.

Ballas and her partner chose to research the Lesbian Land communities that developed in southern Oregon in the ‘60s and ‘70s due to the politically charged time period. They paid particular attention to key figures that lived in the community like Tee Corinne, a famous writer, photographer and artist who depicted female sexuality.

“It helps you see where communities are coming from, where some movements come from and why older people within that community think about things the way that they do,” Ballas said.

But Ballas has learned about more than just history.

“Coming from a conservative community and a conservative family, I wasn’t super knowledgeable about the community here, and so it has been really nice getting to explore and experience different identities and learn about people,” she said. “It has been very educational.

The ARC is known as the culmination of two separate campus developments. The academic portion was initially intended to be an introduction to queer studies in a Freshman Interest Group (FIG), another UO program aiming to help incoming freshman acclimate socially and academically. As a FIG exclusively, it gained little traction, according to Raiskin.

The other development was conceived through the process by which all ARCs are created.

According to Dr. Kevin Hatfield, who serves as the director of Academic Residential and Research Initiatives —a joint position with the Division of Undergraduate Studies and the Department of Residence Life the common approach for creating an ARC relies on strategically orchestrated groups of students, faculty, alumni and other administrators coming together to develop a proposal that identifies goals and outcomes for a specific campus community, as well as its allies.

Hatfield said the main question considered during the early stages of the LGBTQIA+ Scholars initiative asked campus community members a specific question: Where do learning communities that engage in respectful dialogue - or brave spaces, exist on campus?

Once the Gender Equity Floor opened in Carson Hall in 2011, Raiskin and Dr. Julie Heffernan, a professor in the Department of Education, saw the development as an opportunity.

“Julie and I thought: wouldn’t it be great if students on the Gender Equity Floor took an intro to queer studies course?” Raiskin said. “So, the ARC kind of developed from that.”

The main goal for this ARC is providing an equal, opportunity-driven college experience without the fatigue of daily microaggressions and any explicit, systematic bias, Hatfield said. The ARC is the direct result of feedback from faculty, students and administrators who identified shortcomings within the university landscape.

“Other goals for the LGBTQIA+ Scholars ARC consist of educational retention, increasing quality or quantity of first year students’ connections to faculty and having a cohort of students who take classes together,” Hatfield added.

Measuring effectiveness of ARCs looks at the impact on retention, cumulative GPAs and time to graduation. Linear regression analysis of control groups, accounting for specific variables, such as a high school GPA, and any other correlation from ARC participation have been conducted, according to Hatfield, who cautioned that statistical data for LGBTQIA+ students on college campuses is usually not reflective of the actual number of students in the community.

To help with this statistical obstacle, UO has recently expanded the gender identification section of the application process. According to Dr. Mundy, not many schools are doing this.

Additionally, more psychosocial, non-cognitive benefits of the ARC which include sense of belonging, resource seeking and life fulfillment are also showing positive results through surveying, Hatfield said.

As ARCs grow, they require more faculty support and greater budget. Additionally, the UO has residence halls with varying room costs.

There are some students in the extended LGBTQIA+ campus community who can’t afford the double room and sink orientation on Carson’s GEF, according to Rosin.

To alleviate some of these varying room costs, there are no ARC fees at UO, Hatfield said.

Another challenge is keeping students engaged throughout the entire academic year.

“This is the first year that most students have stayed with the ARC for the entire year, so we are doing something right,” Raiskin said. “But there is a double edged sword at play. Visibility can leave students more susceptible to hate, but it also gives students a sense of community.”

Other problems come from an incredibly high RA turnover rate in the housing department in general, especially on the Gender Equity Floor,where the Academic Residential Community assistant (ARCA) left midway through fall term, according to Ballas.

The goal with the position is to create a smooth working environment and productive collective experience.

“Ideally we have an RA or ARCA that works with me, knows what I’m doing and can coordinate with the students about events and programming,” Raiskin said.

Ballas is stepping in to the position fall term. Her experience with the ARC in her first year at UO has motivated her to help provide the same experience for others.

“I really love being in the ARC,” Ballas said. “It has really helped me meet people and be comfortable here. I want to be able to help people have a good, supportive experience next year and make sure we create the best ARC possible.”

Where do learning communities that engage in respectful dialogue - or brave spaces, exist on campus?


Living & Learning





three times as likely to miss school

because they were afraid for their safety.



LGBT youth were

of LGBTQ youth expressed suicide ideation during 2017.