University Inaugurates Retreats for LGBTQ, Self-identifying Students of Color


Ulises Koyoc, Reporter

California Lutheran University’s Center for Cultural Engagement and Inclusion has inaugurated a new series of events aimed to support historically marginalized groups. These events are two part gatherings meant to provide a safe and confidential space where students can share about their experiences.

One of these retreats was hosted on Friday, September 13 for students who identify as individuals of color. The other is for students who consider themselves part of the LGBTQ community, and will be hosted on Friday, September 20. Both events consist of dinner followed by a retreat at the Cameron Center the next day.

Assistant Director of Student Life Nicole Gonzales helped organize the events and said it was her idea to introduce them to Cal Lutheran. Nicole Gonzales said these events proved to be successful while working at her previous institution, and this success motivated her to propose the idea.

“I saw it worked really well in terms of students just building community and getting to know other students who shared salient identities,” Nicole Gonzales said. “It’s really just a way for students to connect to one another outside of the classroom and in this identity space.”

Nicole Gonzales said the idea was well received among her supervisors who believed the only way to determine its impact was by simply trying it. When asked about how these specific groups were chosen, Nicole Gonzales said that there was no clear-cut manner in which they were picked. Rather, it was just the system she saw work at her former institution.

“It really is from the model that I came from. Those were two retreats that were happening on that campus [Pacific Lutheran University],” Nicole Gonzales said. “The hope is to eventually add more [identities] to the series, but when something is new you don’t want to go off too fast. We want it to be a success and for students to have a good experience.”

Jonathan Gonzales, senior coordinator for cultural engagement and inclusion, was a significant supporter for the retreats and also a collaborator for Nicole Gonzales’ vision. Jonathan Gonzales said that although these retreats are new to Cal Lutheran, there have been events with similar concepts before. A series known as “Courageous Conversations” presented an event titled “Surviving as a Person of Color.” According to Jonathan Gonzales, “Surviving as a Person of Color” was highly beneficial for both students of color and white students.

“Identity based programing was very successful for us last year,” Jonathan Gonzales said. “I think it’s important to offer something like this at an ever-growing, diverse institution.”

These events are only meant for “non-White” and for “LGBTQ+ identified” students and staff as stated by the event posters. Acceptance to the events is based on self-identification.

“We don’t necessarily fact-check people because colorism is a huge thing in communities of color,” Jonathan Gonzales said. “Somebody who looks fair or light skinned can still be a person of color.”

After attending the dinner portion of the retreat, Francine Aclan, a first-year majoring in business administration, said in an email interview that she was nervous at first to attend the event, but recalls feeling in a safe environment.

“I feel like CLU does a great job in not only representing me, but also other people of different ethnicities and backgrounds,” Aclan said.

Aclan said transitioning from her Filipino community in Los Angeles to Cal Lutheran has been a significant change, but it is a change Aclan appreciates.

“There are so many different people on campus. I met people from different backgrounds, cultures, and even countries,” Aclan said.

“I think that it’s important for more students to attend. But it’s especially important for students to attend events celebrating diversity because it opens up an opportunity to connect and learn about others while also discovering your own identity,” Aclan said.

This article was updated on September 18 to correct a misspelling of Francine Aclan’s last name in one instance.