LGBT and Women’s Centers provide resources for students

Mankato State University, Mankato is home to many resources related to gender and sexuality, including the Jim Chalgren LGBT Center, the Women’s Center, and the Violence Awareness Response Program.

Located on the first floor of the Centennial Student Union, the LGBT Center is the second oldest college LGBT center in the country. When the center opened in the McElroy Dormitory in 1977, thanks to the work of James “Jim” Chalgren, the center was literally the size of a closet. 

Over the years the LGBT center has expanded and gone through multiple name changes. In 2004, following a student-led sit-in, MSU Mankato hired Jessica Flatequal as a full-time director to lead the center. Up until that point the center had been staffed by graduate students, following Chalgren leaving Mankato in 1987.

Today, the center is located on the first floor of the Centennial Student Union and provides many resources for students while also sponsoring educational and social events on campus. Students stopping by the center today can pick up condoms and pamphlets related to LGBTQ issues, such as information on PREP and LGBTQ friendly housing. The center provides a safe space for LGBTQ students and allies to hang out or watch tv. 

According to MSU student Ingrid Stumo, who often visits the center, this place is important to have on campus. 

“This place can inform [students] about LGBT things. Not just issues, but also safer sex practices. It’s just good to have a quiet, safer place,” Stumo stated. “I met a lot of my friends here.”

The Women’s Center, located on the second floor of the CSU, which partners with the Violence Awareness and Response Program, also has a lounge area for students to relax, hang out, and hold thorough conversations on current events. Students can pick up a variety of useful items, such as menstrual products, condoms and pregnancy tests right in the center.

Furthermore, the Women’s Center hosts a variety of programs. Director Liz Steinborn-Gourley spoke about upcoming programs for Women’s History Month, which is in March. These upcoming events will include a Women’s History Month Trivia event and an ongoing book club conversation on “All About Love: New Visions” by bell hooks. 

The book club allows students to pick up a free copy of “All About Love: New Visions” and a study guide at the center, which will culminate in a Zoom discussion on March 15.

According to Director Steinborn-Gourley, the origins of MSU’s Women’s Center lay began in 1978 in a program called Weekend College, which held classes on Fridays and Saturdays to allow students in rural areas to attend college. In the beginning, the center provided advising to women who were a part of the Weekend College program. 

“The initiative was established to support women who were like, ‘I can’t leave my family and responsibilities behind in order to be fully enrolled five days a week.’ So, that was a really good bridge to help open some doors for women on campus,” said Steinborn-Gourley.

According to Interim Director Shadow Rolan of the Violence Awareness and Response Program, there are two sides to VARP. One side is educational and helps raise awareness of the issues of domestic and sexual violence. 

“The other side of VARP is where I am a confidential advocate where students can come and confide in me and I help them through a healing process,” said Rolan.

Both the Women’s Center and the LGBT Center are open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Write to Jeremy Redlien at

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