Gilbert Carrasco has been the Director of the Office of LGBTQIA Education and Engagement for one month. He said his job is to foster an inclusive campus environment where students can be themselves, explore their identity, and navigate the college experience while attending Tech.
“Our work in the office empowers students, faculty, and staff to be successful people at TTU and beyond,” Carrasco said. “That is where my role comes into play through what our office provides to the Red Raider Community.”
Carrasco said his job allows him to interact with the students that come in and out of the office.
“Students can come to my office and I love spending time getting to know them and what they want us to do in terms of education and engagement opportunities,” Carrasco said.
Carrasco said The Office of LGBTQIA Education & Engagement was not a part of campus when they attended Tech in 2000. Carrasco received his Bachelor's in Business Administration in 2000. He also has recently got his 2nd Master’s from Tech in 2016 in Environmental Design and currently is working on his PhD in the same field.
“I was surprised that there was an office like this one at Texas Tech when I applied for this position,” Carrasco said. “ I wish it had been on campus when I went to school, both times.”
Carrasco said he came to terms with being gay while getting his bachelors and was so afraid of being judged or unaccepted that he separated himself from the organizations he was active in and tried to get out of college as quickly as possible.
“The sad thing was, I loved Tech, but was so fearful of the hate and judgment expressed about the LGBTQIA community, that I just wanted to get away,” Carrasco said.
Carrasco said the Office was established in January of 2017 as the Office of LGBTQIA by previous Vice President and Provost, Dr. Juan Muñoz and founding lead administrator, Jody Randall after recognizing the needs of students at Tech.
“The team expanded to include graduate assistants and student assistants known as the Power Team,” Carrasco said.
Carrasco said prior to the establishment of the office, LGBTQIA students were supported through other students, faculty, offices, and staff through events and programs.
“Student support programs like Risk Intervention & Safety Awareness and the Title IX Office, created events for Pride Week and awareness days,” Carrasco said. “The Residence Hall Association hosted an annual drag show for many years, this year I believe will be in its 13th year.”
Carrasco said he knew many LGBTQIA students from the past who stopped coming to college or never finished their degree because of feeling excluded. He said these feelings add additional pressure on top of being a college student and to possible pressures from family or societal judgment.
“I am grateful to the Texas Tech leadership for creating the office,” Carrasco said. “Not just because it's now my job but as an alum, it has so much meaning and knowing the support is here, that may not have been here when I was a student.”
Currently, the Office of LGBTQIA Education and Engagement serves the Texas Tech community through facilitation and leadership of programming and advocacy efforts aimed at strengthening the LGBTQIA community. Carrasco said the office also serves as a resource for the members of the community through ‘allyship’.
“We do this through several different ways,” Carrasco said. “Some of those include providing support services and resources for students, faculty, and staff, answering any general inquiries individuals may have about the LGBTQIA community and allyship and we offer one on one consultation and group meetings.”
Carrasco said the office works to support the LGBTQIA community and allies through educational opportunities, community wellness spaces, and experiences where the LGBTQIA community at Tech can feel free to be their whole selves or explore what that means to them.
“A part of being your authentic self, feeling like you have the space to do this, and be successful is providing opportunities to learn and grow,” Carrasco said. “I plan to do that by providing an open, supportive foundation for our community to learn and my hope is this makes their college life memorable, in a positive way.”
Carrasco said programs such as Ignite!, Raider Rainbow Welcome, Pride Week, Transgernder Day of Remembrance, Lavender Graduation and many more are all hosted by the office.
“We are the hosts for the Big XII LGBTQIA & Allies Summit to bring together participants from the Big XII schools, and beyond who engage in educational programming, networking, and are able to engage with LGBTQIA justice and advocacy professionals,” Carrasco said. “We conduct many student-centered programs such as our First Year and Queer/Trans Space, Queer Reads, Queer Reels, Queer/Trans Students of Color, Sweet Tea-ology (Interfaith Affinity Space).”
Carrasco said many students are engaged in the office through learning programs, leadership, and ‘allyship’ within the Tech community.
“We engage thousands of students and community members in our programming and events, '' Carrasco said. “Whether it is through tabling efforts at Pride events in the West Texas area or on campus, we are impacting not just TTU but our regional area in a large way.”
Carrasco said the office is primarily made up of students. He said they have two graduate assistants and two undergraduate student assistants that are hardworking and committed to the office.
“The Assistant Director and I are the only full-time staff. We could not have the success we have without our POWER Team,” Carrasco said. “We also have volunteers and practicum students that help with events, presentations, and office support. It is important that we provide as many educationally immersive experiences and ways for individuals to give back.”
Carrasco said the office is supported by many allies and organizations across campus and the Lubbock community. They said staff and faculty from the different colleges on campus have shown their support to the office.
“We were just at Lubbock pride in late August, and I had several allies in the community from churches, non-profits organizations and businesses telling us how glad they were that we (the Office of LGBTQIA Education & Engagement) were at Tech,” Carrasco said. “We partner with TTU Counseling Services to also provide group therapy and with the TTU Center for Collegiate Recovery Community for LGBTQIA+ All Recovery Meetings.”
Carrasco said the office also has an advisory committee that meets with them quarterly to keep them composed of their efforts and to check in to know what is happening on campus. He said the office also works closely with the Texas Tech faculty, staff, and graduate student association to host monthly networking events and provide students resources.
“Our Big XII LGBTQIA & Allies Summit could not happen without the support from our TTU, Lubbock, Alumni, and higher education colleagues. They are key to the success of the summit,” Carrasco said. “As I continue to get offered help and support from all these organizations and allies, I just feel lucky and so excited for our TTU LGBTQIA and allied communities.”
Carrasco said the office is not just for LGBTQIA students, staff, and faculty but for anyone committed to strengthening communities.
“Our allies are meaningful and often is how we can reach across the entire TTU community,” Carrasco said. “You do not have to be an expert, you just have to have a willingness to want to learn and know more. So don’t be afraid of coming to the RAINBOW table or asking how you can help.”
Carrasco said each LGBTQIA student, faculty, and staff member deserves to have a great college and work experience in a supportive environment, surrounded by people who can respect one another.
“It takes supporting our office and connecting students with us. It is stopping in to say hi, asking how you can know or learn more or getting a friend connected with us,” Carrasco said. “ It takes one person and one connection to open a door to a much larger, inclusive community.”