By Steve Nakata, Student Affairs
WSU will offer workshops and films leading up to the NASPA Region V Undocumented and Queer in Higher Education Drive-in Conference in Pullman on Saturday, April 16. NASPA is the national association for student affairs administrators. Its drive-in conferences are regional, within “driving distance.”
Heidi Stanton Schnebly, director of WSU’s Gender Identity/Expression and Sexual Orientation Resource Center and interim director of the Women’s Resource Center, said undocumented and queer students often feel invisible because most universities aren’t tracking their numbers or offering the assistance they need to be successful.
“In many respects the challenges faced by both populations parallel each other,” she said. “Without proper documentation and supportive laws, these students face obstacles that impact their daily lives as college students.”
Events will kick off Wednesday, April 13, with a Dance for Cans, a social gathering to help stock the shelves of WSU’s Student Support Services food pantry. The next two days will feature films and workshops, including one by WSU alumni, by undocumented and queer former students who will share what professional life is like for them. No registration is required for activities leading up to the conference.
Faculty, staff and administrators from around the Pacific Northwest are encouraged to attend the conference, which does require registration by March 25 at http://bit.ly/1TXItVR.
Among the conference speakers will be Teresita De La Torre, a California artist who gained notoriety on social media for wearing the same plaid, button-down shirt for over 100 days. She found the torn shirt on a bush in the California desert and thought it would be interesting to wear as a way to start conversations about the migrant it may have belonged to.
Seattle Counseling Center staff member Jacque Larrainza, another conference speaker, said it is estimated there are 250,000 self-identified undocumented LGBTQIA+ immigrants in the United States. His workshop will educate participants about resources that can help them live healthy, successful lives.
Also speaking will be Isis Lara, a 2010 WSU graduate in English and film studies, who will share her story of being an undocumented student her first two years in college as well as her experience being detained at the Texas border in 2014 after visiting her native Honduras, despite having permanent U.S. residency. Since graduation, she has worked with underrepresented and homeless youth programs through AmeriCorps and with Friends of Youth in Seattle.
The idea for Undocu-Queer Week began last summer when Marcela Pattinson, assistant director for community relations and outreach in the WSU Office of Multicultural Student Services, attended the Inland Northwest Student Affairs Colloquium in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
“When I thought about these two groups, it occurred to me that these are the minorities of the minorities,” she said. “I felt like we should do something to help make their experience in college an easier one.”
Stanton Schnebly agreed to help lead the effort to secure NASPA sponsorship.
“In talking with NASPA, we learned that virtually no one is talking about these issues at the regional or national level,” she said. “It’s great that we are thinking about them and WSU is in a position to set the benchmark by bringing these issues to the forefront.”
Marcela Pattinson, WSU Office of Multicultural Student Services, 509-335-6706, firstname.lastname@example.org
Heidi Stanton Schnebly, WSU GIESORC, 509-335-8841, email@example.com
Steve Nakata, WSU Student Affairs communications, 509-335-1774, firstname.lastname@example.org