Augustana introduces new peer support group for LGBTQ+ Students

Gavin Nicoson

Augustana College has recently added to its existing peer support groups with the creation of a group for LGBTQ+ students. Although newly formed, the group extends across 19 different departments on campus and utilizes counseling services from the Quad Cities. LGBTQ+ coordinator Daisy Moran spoke about its defining features. 

“What really sets us aside is that we have licensed professionals that have had LGBT training,” Moran said. “And we also have a representative from a community organization (Clock Inc.) that focuses on LGBT interests at all different levels of society.” 

An emphasis on LGBTQ+ voices allows group discussions to be led in a productive manner, giving students an experience more tailored to their specific concerns. The presence of licensed professionals is not meant to intimidate students, but to guide any discussion in a productive manner. Especially as the group increases in numbers, a greater focus is placed on camaraderie between its members than on group counseling.

“Right now, it’s more about getting to know you,” Moran said. “It’s more of an uplifting LGBT joy space, but we do welcome any trauma that needs to be unpacked or discussed. This would be the place to do it.” 

Bill Iavarone, director of counseling services at Augustana, said that having such a space on campus provides respite to students who feel that their existence is under scrutiny.

“The reason that we have a peer support group on campus for that population is because that culture is under attack right now,” Iavarone said. “We wanted to make sure students had a safe space where they could talk about things that they may not be able to share outside of that space.”

Although mutual peer support is the goal, there are options for individuals who desire one-on-one sessions. The LGBTQ community center Clock Inc. partners with Augustana, offering counseling and other resources. Lindsey Svetlick, relationships manager for Clock Inc., spoke about what the organization provides.

“We provide groups for all ages,” Svetlick said. “We provide a trans closet for people to be able to come in and experiment with clothing and be in a space where they don’t feel uneasy about trying on new things.”

With their collaboration on this new peer support group, Clock Inc. is looking to expand their outreach at Augustana and increase awareness of their services throughout the Quad Cities. As on-campus peer support continues to expand, Svetlick encourages students to utilize the resources provided through Clock Inc’s partnership with Augustana.

“We are not a center that says, ‘Nope, you don’t look like us or sound like us? You don’t belong.’ This is a center that says, ‘Come. Allow that nervousness, that anxious feeling, to be okay,’” Svetlick said.

Augustana’s LGBTQ+ peer support group meets on Thursdays from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. in the Bahls Leadership Center. Students interested in reaching out can do so through an email to the counseling office or by messaging @osid_augie on Instagram.