Former Maverick and graduate of the communication studies program, Zeke Sorenson returned to Minnesota State University, Mankato, to run the Jim Chalgren LGBT Center, the second oldest center of it’s kind in the United States.
A row of superhero and fantasy themed bobble heads, along with a large figurine of the Hulk already adorns Sorenson’s office.
“My favorite series was the Hulk, Flash was also another favorite series of mine, along with Spiderman and The X-men,” said Sorenson.
As a student at MSU Mankato, Sorenson was able to see the value of advocacy work and applied that to his career after he left Mankato.
“I was here from 2006 to 2008, so I was here for two years,” said Sorenson. “I was fairly still in the closet at that time too, so coming to a campus where there was an LGBT center, that made a huge difference in me being able to accept that, and be more comfortable, and be more open, and really come out. It was something that even after I left MSU, that I didn’t hide anymore if I was asked.”
After Sorenson left Mankato, he was able to apply what he learned here from the LGBT center to his career after college.
“It helped me to realize the value of advocacy work. I really got into a lot of advocacy work, just from starting here. So for example, in Manhattan, Kansas I was part of the Flint Hills Human Rights Project,” said Sorenson. “We were able to pass a human rights ordinance that included sexual identity and gender identity as protected classes within the ordinance. So that was pretty significant.”
Sorenson cited his experiences at MSU Mankato and the ability to do LGBTQ advocacy as reasons for returning.
“For me this position checked all the right boxes. It was the ability to focus on just LGBT advocacy and be a support for LGBT students at an institution I have a lot of positive memories for,” said Sorenson.
Sorenson of course has some big plans for where the center could go.
“I’m trying to figure out what the issues are from the students’ perspectives, I’ve been sitting down with the students who frequented the center,” said Sorenson. “I hope to bring in more students who may not come in more regularly, to get a chance to visit them, give them the opportunity to give feedback. A big bulk of this semester is just trying to feel that climate out.”
Specific plans include continuing previous programs, such as the drag shows and working with South Central Minnesota Pride.
“I’ve already heard from the students, they do not want the drag shows to go away,” said Sorenson.
However, Sorenson also laid out a few more ambitious ideas as well, including creating programs for LGBTQ youth in the area.
“Another big thing that I’d like to do is really connect with the high-school GSA’s and South Central College’s GSA, but really the queer youth of Mankato,” said Sorenson. “I’d like to start with having a GSA’s day, where we invite GSA’s to come to our campus, interact with college students, and provide mentoring opportunities for our college students, because I think that’s a valuable experience both for our youth and for our students here at MSU.”
(Today GSA typically refers to Gender and Sexuality Alliance groups, but historically the acronym stood for Gay-Straight Alliances.)
Sorenson went so far as to bring up the possibility of creating an LGBTQ youth summer camp.
“Eventually, I’d like to expand that (bringing local GSA’s to campus) to the region, maybe do a summer camp, where the students in the LGBT center can kind of take on those camp counselor roles, and do different activities with the students and just have it be an LGBTQ+ affirming camp where they can learn about LGBTQ+ issues,” said Sorenson.
Header photo: Former Maverick graduate student of the communication studies program Zeke Sorenson to run the Jim Chalgren LGBT Center. (Jeremy Redlien/The Reporter)
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