Since their first year at Amherst, Saren Deardorff ’17 and Nayah Mullings ’17 have served and supported the LGBTQ community on campus, from helping to establish the Queer Resource Center (QRC) to educating the wider Amherst community about diversity and inclusion.
“They are the only two students who have dedicated their entire four years at Amherst to diversity and inclusion work in this particular capacity,” says Angie Tissi-Gassoway, director of the QRC and associate dean for diversity and inclusion. “They have been instrumental in how the QRC has grown and changed since its inception.”
When the two students first arrived on campus in 2013, resources for the LGBTQ community were more limited. A resource center called The Rainbow Room provided a safe space and some programming. But it was located in the basement of a residence hall, which faculty and staff could not access, and its budget was too small to do much.
During their first semester, Deardorff, Mullings and three other students met with President Biddy Martin and successfully advocated for an institutionally supported center that would provide educational resources and extensive programming for queer and transgender people on campus. They also requested changing the name to the Queer Resource Center. A larger budget allowed for student hires. Two years later, the QRC moved into a central and accessible location in Keefe Campus Center.