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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

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Pride ERG Chair Courtney Harmon Pride ERG Chair Courtney Harmon

Celebrating the LGBTQIA+ Community at SDSU

The Pride ERG is collaborating with several campus partners to host a Virtual Pride Celebration on Wednesday, July 14.
By SDSU News Team

The Pride Employee Resource Group (ERG) was formed in spring 2018, as part of a university commitment to providing an inclusive environment for faculty and staff. The Pride ERG provides a space for building personal and professional connections, engaging in meaningful discussions, advocating for just campus policies, and building community with LGBTQIA+ students. 

The Pride ERG has grown to over 100 members, including faculty, staff and auxiliary employees. Membership has grown from word of mouth, tabling at events such as the annual pride flag raising ceremony, and from awareness at new faculty orientations and staff onboarding. Although meetings have been virtual for over a year due to COVID-19, the Pride ERG community is continuing to join together regularly. 

The SDSU News Team spoke with Pride ERG Chair Courtney Harmon about the organization’s activities and how interested members can find more information.

What is the mission of the organization?

The official mission of the SDSU Pride Employee Resource Group is to be an alliance of faculty, staff, and student employees committed to an inclusive, open campus community, advancing equality for LGBTQIA+ people. We come together to build personal connections, celebrate, learn, and foster social justice and equity within the larger SDSU and LGBTQIA+ community. Through advocating for rights, encouraging discussions, and seeking solutions, we act as agents of positive change for employees as well as students.

I see the unofficial mission as being much more simple. We are creating a sense of family and community on campus and I think that makes working at SDSU feel more purposeful. 

How often does the organization meet? When are the meetings?

The Pride ERG holds monthly lunch meetings on the first Friday of the month and informal happy hours on the third Thursday each month. We also plan social gatherings and build partner events with other organizations, such as the SDSU Pride Center. Members are notified about meetings and events via email and can sign up to receive updates.  

What kind of activities does the organization plan and attend? Does the group have any events coming up?

We are organizing a Virtual Pride Celebration on July 14—a community gathering in collaboration with the SDSU Pride Center and Student Affairs and Campus Diversity. Usually in July, SDSU holds the pride flag raising ceremony and we march together in the San Diego Pride Parade, but we are doing one more year of virtual celebrating to keep our community safe and healthy. The virtual platform has offered us increased accessibility and we hope to see many students, employees, alumni, and community members there. 

You can keep up to date with all of our events through Instagram @sdsu_pride_erg or visit the Pride ERG website

What do you enjoy most about this organization?

The best part about the Pride ERG has been getting to know a wide variety of faculty and staff from many different areas on campus. It makes a big campus feel smaller when you see familiar faces in meetings and around campus. Beyond the professional links being formed, our members have enjoyed casual meetups where conversations turn to pop culture, childhood memories, coming out stories, and support for each other as we move through the multiple current crises our country is facing. 

What does the organization hope to achieve in the next year?

In the 2020-21 academic year, we launched a pilot peer mentoring program called Pride Peers. We had 18 participants who were matched based on their professional goals and personal interests. Peers set up times to meet monthly to get to know each other with the goal of building strong connections with an SDSU colleague.

This academic year, we are hoping to expand the Pride Peers program into opportunities for employees to connect with SDSU students. We recognize that LGBTQIA+ students might have strained relationships with their families of origin, and a lot of our members did too when we were young and first coming out. This year, we are planning to host a series of “what we wish we knew” themed real-talk events about things like navigating rental markets, cooking, how to get connected with the San Diego LGBTQIA+ community, and other topics based on students’ interests and our ERG members’ experiences. 

What does Pride Month mean to you?

To me, Pride Month is as much about remembrance as it is about celebrating and looking forward. It’s a time I think about our Queer ancestors, who lived in and out of closets, who kept one eye on survival, and the other on paving the way for us to live openly and safely. Pride is also deeply connected to SDSU for me. I came out as an undergraduate in 2005, and SDSU is where I first found my LGBTQIA+ community and some of my closest friendships. The annual SDSU Pride Flag Raising Ceremony was always a reminder that I am supported here. 

SDSU was recently ranked No. 14 nationally for supporting LGBTQ+ students. In what ways does the university support LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff?

In the summer of 2019, the colorful SDSU contingency was lining up, waiting for the San Diego Pride Parade to start, and President Adela de la Torre had just climbed into the lead car. I went over to thank her for supporting the ERGs and told her what a difference it was making in my life and many others. The first thing she said was, “May I give you a hug?” I had known for many years that SDSU was committed to the LGBTQIA+ community through programming, policies, developing courses, and providing resources, but that hug represented the heart behind our accolades. It’s wonderful to feel support from the top, and I also want to underline that the reason we’ve achieved national ranking is because hundreds of people have been tirelessly working year after year to listen to needs and find creative solutions. All the little things matter and I’m proud to be a part of these efforts.