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Efforts to build inclusiveness for LGBTQ community celebrated

Fire Ball is a hot hit

UW-Eau Claire's sold-out 2014 Fire Ball received the NASPA: Region IV-East Innovative Program Award as the top student affairs program in Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin and parts of Canada. Christopher Jorgenson, Fire Ball coordinator and director of UW-Eau Claire's Women's and LGBTQ Resource Center, accepted the award.

The Fire Ball is a drag show and fundraiser for the UW-Eau Claire LGBTQA Student Support Fund, which provides scholarships to LGBTQ students and allies who wish to pursue social justice experiences, education and activism when they would otherwise be financially unable to do so. The 2015 Fire Ball is scheduled for Feb. 27 and 28 at UW-Eau Claire (location to be determined).

"The Fire Ball weaves in historical elements of the modern gay rights movement, introducing attendees to some of the key historical figures responsible for sparking the Stonewall Riots," Jorgenson said. "Additionally, all proceeds from the event support the LGBTQA Student Support Fund, whose purpose is to encourage and help make possible student opportunities related to social justice advocacy, such as sponsoring students to attend the Civil Rights Pilgrimage and the LGBTQA Studies: San Francisco Travel Seminar."

20141118_JorgensonChris2Validation through Fair Wisconsin honor

UW-Eau Claire's Women's and LGBTQ Resource Center also recently received the Organization of the Year Award from the Fair Wisconsin Education Fund.

Fair Wisconsin is an organization whose mission is to educate the public about the harms of discrimination toward LGBT individuals and to build more inclusive communities and workplaces for members of the LGBT community in the state.

Jorgenson said receiving the Organization of the Year Award is important because it shows people that UW-Eau Claire is growing and becoming a safe place for the LGBTQ community and its allies.

"The award is also validation that the work we are doing here is supporting the vision of the UW System's Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, which is to 'transform the UW System into a higher educational community that represents, reflects, respects and values diverse persons, voices and perspectives of Wisconsin.,'" Jorgenson said. "We are living out that vision and transforming the initiative into actual work."

The Women's and LGBTQ Resource Center was nominated for the award by Dr. Barbara Kernan, assistant professor of women's studies at UW-Eau Claire.

In her nomination, Kernan said, "Christopher Jorgenson works hard to create an inclusive, active and open space for LGBTQA people on the UW-Eau Claire campus and to bridge campus and community around issues that are important to all. His events are beautiful spectacles that draw one in with all the senses and create a space that requires us to reflect, communicate and understand one another. He is immensely talented and uses his talents to bring community members together with college and high school-age people to address commonalities and encourage cooperation."

The Women's and LGBTQ Resource Center has organized events such as "Out With It," a National Coming Out Day event, and "Break the Silence: A Concert," a National Day of Silence, which enlists the participation of dozens of campus and community offices, departments and student organizations. The center also offers Peer Haven, a LGBTQ peer mentoring program which seeks to connect incoming LGBTQ students with those who have been able to negotiate campus life and integrate their various identities and expressions in positive and empowering ways. The center's most well-known event, the Fire Ball, has become the second largest event of the year within UW-Eau Claire's University Centers.

Dr. Beth Hellwig, vice chancellor for student affairs at UW-Eau Claire, said, "I am extremely proud of this accomplishment and all the individuals who have worked so hard to create a welcoming and inclusive community at UW-Eau Claire for our LGBTQA students, faculty and staff."

Jorgenson said he is grateful for the support from Hellwig and other members of the student affairs department.

"The student affairs support has been crucial to the success of the Women's and LGBTQ Resource Center and the programs it provides," Jorgenson said. "They recognize the importance of student advocacy and provide me with the space and support to do my work. They are involved in the events and are very passionate allies of the LGBTQ community. UW-Eau Claire is truly becoming a leader among universities in creating a community where LGBTQ students and faculty are welcomed."

For more information on the award or the Women's and LGBTQ Resource Center, contact Christopher Jorgenson at or 715-836-2693.