Clarkie of the Week: 11/13

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Kelly Herbst is a senior double majoring in English and Women and Gender Studies. They hail all the way from Longmont, Colorado and is passionate about spreading awareness of LGBT issues.

Kelly Herbst | Photo: Jonathan Edeleman

Kelly Herbst | Photo: Jonathan Edelman

Scarlet: What are you involved in on campus?

Kelly: I am a Difficult Dialogues Fellow working with the Difficult Dialogues program, and that’s pretty much my formal involvement on campus. Informally, I’ve been really involved with LGBT activism. There’s a new LGBT Advisory Board and I’ve been working a lot with them for the past year.

The Difficult Dialogues program is part of the Higgins School of Humanities, which helps promote dialogue on campus. There’s the symposium, which is a series of events which the Higgins School brings in which is really cool, and then the Difficult Dialogues seminars, which are really great opportunities to engage with dialogue and learn more about what dialogue is.

As fellows, we work to promote dialogue on campus and to talk about what Difficult Dialogues is, and I’m working on a project doing a dialogue around LGBT identities. It’s just a really great chance to engage with dialogue and think about the ways in which we communicate with each other. It’s really cool because it puts an emphasis on people’s experiences and really thinking about how you come to what thoughts and opinions you have, which is something that I think is really cool.

In terms of LGBT activism, I’ve been very involved with the LGBT community since I’ve arrived at Clark.  In the past year and a half, I started working sort of outside of OPEN, which is the LGBT club on campus, to really try and get more dedicated spaces, create more intergenerational community building, and to try and get sort of more visibility of allies in the administration and faculty. Out of that, there is the new LGBT Advisory Board, which is made up of Dean Darrigrand, Dean Mo [Mounira Morris] out of the Dean of Students Office, Betsy Huang, and Jenn Plante. That group has been really great as a resource for students in terms of creating visibility, and recently at the October Board of Trustees meeting, we spoke with the Student Affairs Committee about LGBT issues here at Clark, which was a huge step for us, in terms of getting awareness on LGBT issues.

At the end of last semester, Professor Kushner, who was the chair of the Campus Climate Committee, put out a report on LGBT climate issues here at Clark and one of the stand-out issues was the feeling that, at Clark, it’s okay if you’re gay but we don’t really want to talk about it, and we don’t really engage with what the difficulties of being an LGBT student are. So that’s been one of the things that I’ve been working on, just trying to create awareness, both through talking to people I know, as well as working with the LGBT Advisory Board. We had a really great intergenerational get-together at the beginning of the semester where we had allied professors as well as LGBT or queer identified students and grad students who got together just to meet each other and just talk about the resources that are available, because one of the other things is visibility of resources. We don’t always see the resources that are available for LGBT students.


Scarlet: This is really important work. Do you think your efforts have been successful thus far?

Kelly: I mean, there have been some really great concrete changes that are happening in the past year, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of awareness of issues and really making sure that these issues are being addressed across the community, not just at the student level, but also among faculty, staff, and the administration as well. That’s something that we’re working on as well, just making sure it’s on everybody’s radar, and that it continues to be on everybody’s radar, so that it’s not just one Board of Trustees meeting, but lasting work.

My passion is for specifically LGBT activism, and that’s also what I do for fun, being really engaged in the community, reading and consuming what’s out there culturally as well. I guess most people would classify it under the category of fun, and it is fun, but it’s also part of my efforts in terms of making sure that I’m aware of what is being produced in the media on LGBT issues and engaging in conversations about these representations both positive and negative. As a gender studies major my favorite word might be “problematic,” and figuring out what’s problematic about these representations. It’s something that’s fun but it’s also intrinsically tied to what I do as an activist.


Scarlet: You’re a Women and Gender Studies major but also an English major. Do you write?

Kelly: I write some poetry but what I like is to write critically. Sometimes I’ll write in terms of creating responses to those media incidents. Mostly I just put them out on Facebook. I’ve always been very nervous about creating a blog because until recently there were aspects of my life that I was very much not “out” in, so for me that was always a very big concern, that somebody who was sort of unaware of all of my identities would find my blog, so posting them on Facebook allows me to control who sees what.

But next semester I’m doing a couple of cool projects that I think are going to turn into some blog projects because I recently came out to my mom as trans so now I feel like I don’t have to hide that part anymore, so I think it’ll be cool to start to address a wider audience outside of the narrow audience of those who know I’m out and know my identities and who are familiar with who I am.


Scarlet: Is there anything you’d like to share?

Kelly: I really do want to bring awareness to the LGBT Advisory Board and really to make sure that students know that there are resources on campus and that Dean Darrigrand, Dean Mo, Jenn, and Betsy are people you can go to for resources if you need them.


Thanks for the interview, Kelly!