URI breaks ground on nation’s first free-standing LGBTQ center
THE UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND on Wednesday broke ground on the new LGBTQ Center planned for Upper College Road. Above, a rendering of the center, which will be located at the entrance of URI's South Kingstown campus near the Office of Admission and the Women’s Center.
SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The University of Rhode Island broke ground Wednesday morning on a new LGBTQ Center on Upper College Road scheduled to open next spring.
The groundbreaking took place at the site of the old Ruggles House, a vacant URI building at 19 Upper College Road that will be demolished to make way for the $2.1 million, 4,300-square-foot facility.
URI said it is the first institution of higher education in the country to design and build a free-standing LGBTQ Center for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer community.
Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee and other state officials joined URI President David M. Dooley, URI Chief Diversity Officer Naomi R. Thompson, LGBTQ Center Director Annie Russell and university students for the groundbreaking ceremony.
“It’s a great moment for the University of Rhode Island to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity that’s part of our community now and will be in the future,” said Dooley. “As we have said in our Transformational Goals, building a community in which every member is welcomed, supported and valued is essential to our identity and mission.”
The building will be located at the entrance of the South Kingstown campus near the Office of Admission and the Women’s Center, Dooley said.
The single-story, stone-and-clapboard LGBTQ building will have a veranda running along its front and ornamental plants and flowers on its roof. The building will house a multipurpose room with a capacity of about 50, a conference room for about 20, a group counseling room and a student lounge, in addition to offices for the director, three staff members and student staff members.
The center is part of URI’s Office of Community, Equity and Diversity. Nadeau Corp. of Attleboro is the project contractor, and LLB Architects of Pawtucket is the architect.
LGBTQ Center staff, currently operating out of Adams Hall, have developed a strategic planning process to track the success of its programs.
In the 2011-12 academic year, the center started 27 new programs, services, groups or initiatives and added more than 50 more in the fall of 2012. This year alone, the center has hosted more than 100 programs, and some have been adopted by institutions nationwide and internationally, the university said.
Russell and her staff also have designed and led numerous “Safe Zone” workshops to train members of the university community on basic issues affecting the LGBTQ community.