Job: Adjunct Faculty Member, Women and Gender Studies, School of Integrative Studies, Social Work
Ric Chollar’s relationship with George Mason University began in 1987 when he started teaching for the Psychology Department. In the late 1990s, he became the facilitator for an LGBTQ counseling group, and in 2001 he was hired as a consultant on what grew into the Safe Zone program. In the early 2000s, programs like Safe Zone increased LGBTQ visibility at Mason, and the LGBTQ resources staff at the time worked with faculty to institutionalize the first LGBTQ studies courses. From 2002 to 2017, Chollar was a staff member for what became the LGBTQ+ Resources Center, and he continues to teach as an adjunct.
Finding a Home at Mason: Chollar said he felt respected and encouraged by colleagues from the start, but that his time at Mason has required being humble enough to learn from mistakes. In his work, he aspires to achieve healing, compassion, justice, and liberation. “Even though it will look different for each person, how can I best support someone to become more free and more of who they know they are?”
It Takes a Village: Chollar’s involvement with Mason helped give shape to the university’s story of LGBTQ advocacy, one in which he insists there are many unsung heroes. Students initially took the lead on LGBTQ issues, and he credits the activist work of many longtime Mason faculty and staff. He said LGBTQ liaisons and leaders in offices and departments across Mason are key to successful support. Over the years, the LGBTQ+ Resources Center has consistently worked with the Women and Gender Studies Program; the office now known as Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; the Center for Culture, Equity, and Empowerment; and Counseling and Psychological Services.
Strength from Diversity: Chollar said the efforts of programs like Safe Zone and events like Ryan Allen’s drag persona Reann Ballslee becoming Homecoming Queen helped increase the visibility of the LGBTQ community at Mason in the 2000s. One example Chollar gives of a cross-university collaboration that embodies the ideals of the LGBTQ+ Resources Center was when students advocated for inviting trans-rights activist Laverne Cox to campus. The resulting event was the one of the most successful Chollar has witnessed, and many students expressed finally feeling represented. “It is always important for us to work with students as whole, complicated people.”
Creating Spaces for All: Chollar encourages a balance between improving existing support and making spaces for a wider range of people. This includes acknowledging the importance of racial identity and that many LGBTQ students of color face specific oppression, as well as supporting trans and nonbinary people in leadership roles. “It’s not for us to think we're the experts. It’s about being open to learning from others, creating space for others to learn and lead, and ultimately, it’s about learning and working together.”
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