With new program, Oles go Out for Lunch
Once every month, members of the St. Olaf College community — students, faculty, and staff — gather in the Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion lounge to share a meal and engage in conversation centered on LGBTQIA+ experiences.
The new Out for Lunch Series, developed by Assistant Director for Gender and Sexuality Jon Mergens, aims to create space on campus for education and community building centered on the lives and experiences of LGBTQIA+ individuals. LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, and more.
“At its core, the purpose of the Out for Lunch series is to build community and relationships,” Mergens says. “I wanted to create space for both LGBTQIA+ folx as well as non-LGBTQIA+ identified folx to eat a meal together and engage in conversation around a topic or issue within the LGBTQIA+ community.”
Each one of the meals has a topic for participants to discuss. Examples include building community, the history of LGBTQIA+ rights, navigating difficult conversations, and religion and LGBTQIA+ identity. All students, faculty, and staff are invited to participate.
The response from the St. Olaf community has already been positive. Lunches have started to fill up in advance, and there has been a general appreciation for the Out for Lunch Series as a program that reflects the values of inclusive community at St. Olaf. Mergens hopes to incorporate participant feedback to drive the series topics for spring.
Assistant Director for Gender and Sexuality Jon MergensI hope people will leave with a better understanding of their own identities, how those identities intersect, and what that means for how they show up into spaces on campus. I also hope participants leave with a better understanding of and appreciation for the LGBTQIA+ community.
While the program’s primary purpose is to build community, it’s also an opportunity for personal growth. “I hope people will leave with a better understanding of their own identities, how those identities intersect, and what that means for how they show up into spaces on campus. I also hope participants leave with a better understanding of and appreciation for the LGBTQIA+ community,” Mergens says.
For more information about the Out for Lunch Series, look for posters around campus advertising the event, talk to Mergens in the Taylor Center, or register online.
October is LGBTQIA+ history month. The Taylor Center and the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations will host a celebration of LGBTQIA+ history at St. Olaf the afternoon of Saturday, October 26. There will be a collaboration with the Lutheran Center to commemorate the 10th anniversary of LGBTQIA+ clergy in the ELCA. Student organizations, such as Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA) and REPRESENT., are also hosting events on campus throughout the month. St. Olaf celebrated National Coming Out Day on October 11 and International Pronouns Day on October 16.