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The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

The Pride Center: Home, family, and upcoming events

Image retrieved from UWL Campus Connection. (Director of the Pride Center, Willem Vanrossenbeek).

Will Vanrossenbeek (he/they) has interacted with many students during his time at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Vanrossenbeek has served as the director of the Pride Center at UWL for decades and is currently in his 23rd year in the position. When Vanrossenbeek is not serving as director of the Pride Center, you can find them teaching an introduction course to LGBTQ+ studies, advising student organizations and volunteering in the community. 

Home is what the Pride Center means to Vanrossenbeek. “[The Pride Center is] home. Home for folx that are looking to find their community,” said Vanrossenbeek. 

The Pride Center is located on the second floor of the Student Union in the COVE with a staff composed of Director Will Vanrossenbeek, Graduate Assistant Elliot Knoke, and three Peer Mentors Logan, Katie and Adam. 

The Pride Center and its staff are there to provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ students to come and meet other people within the LGBTQ+ community. “Even if folx aren’t part of the community but love people who are in the community, or want to learn how to be a better supporter, they are welcome as well,” said Vanrossenbeek. 

The driving missions of the Pride Center are advocacy, community & belonging and equity & transformation.

“Advocacy is number one, that’s why we’re here,” said Vanrossenbeek. “[Advocacy is about] trying to educate everyone about the needs of LGBTQ+ students, staff and faculty.” 

The Pride Center offers a variety of resources for UWL students, staff and faculty, including LGBTQ+ training and panels. LGBTQ+ panels offer a basic introduction to LGBTQ+ terminology and safe space guidelines, and ally workshops that are customizable to fit the needs of the requesting group. 

The Pride Center provides a family. “Not in the traditional sense of a biological family. Family in the sense that we oftentimes become your LGBTQ+ family,” said Vanrossenbeek. 

He continued, “For many LGBTQ+ folx, family is a painful thing. We hope to provide joy, support and get you through the things you need help getting through.” 

“We think there aren’t a lot of [LGBTQ+ people], we think we’re the only ones. But you’re not. There are a lot of us. There’s a lot of support on campus and in the community,” said Vanrossenbeek as a member of the LGBTQ+ community at UWL. 

The Pride Center offers many events, resources and opportunities for students, staff and faculty in the LGBTQ+ community. 

The Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Asexual College Conference (MBLGTACC) is hosting its 31st annual conference. MBLGTACC brings thousands of LGBTQ+ students from around the Midwest together in one space. Vanrossenbeek said this is an opportunity to help LGBTQ+ students “make connections, to learn, to grow and to connect.” 

The Office of Residence Life, the Office of Multicultural Student Services and the Pride Center provide funding for UWL students to attend the conference. Students will only be expected to provide funds for food as the university will cover the conference ticket, transportation and hotel costs. If any students are interested in attending MBLGTACC they should contact either the Office of Residence Life, the Office of Multicultural Student Services or the Pride Center. 

The Pride Center is home to two campus organizations: Rainbow Unity and Transform. Rainbow Unity is a sexual orientation, romantic attraction and gender identity organization and Transform is a gender identity organization. If any students are interested in joining either or both of these groups, you can find more information on the Pride Center website.

The Pride Center is open 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Sat. and 10 a.m.-11 p.m. on Sun. The Pride Center is available to all students, staff and faculty of the LGBTQ+ community and for those who are allies or curious to learn more about the community. 

When asked what Vanrossenbeek wanted to say to the students who are hesitant to come to the Pride Center, Vanrossenbeek said, “If you’re hesitant to physically come here, reach out via email or whatever works for you. Because we want to help.” 

He continued, “If students can give us a try, my hope is that we could provide the help that they are looking for and need.” 

The Pride Center will be hosting events in honor of National Coming Out Day, Trans Day of Remembrance and more. Stay up to date on any upcoming Pride Center events throughout the year on the Pride Center website

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About the Contributor
Sophie Miller, Social Justice Reporter
  • Year at UWL: Senior
  • PGPs: She/Her/Hers
  • Hometown: Prairie du Chien, WI
  • Major: Dual Major in Political Science & Communication Studies with a Public Communication and Advocacy Emphasis
  • Minor: Social Justice Minor
  • Other Campus Involvement: Intern in the Financial Aid Office
  • Future Plans after Graduation: Attend Graduate School
  • Favorite activity in La Crosse: Going to Pettibone Beach
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