For the past 20 years, the Prism Center — the university’s hub for supporting LGBTQA+ students — has been tucked into a temporary space in Allen House at 461 Main Street. “Allen House is a lovely old house; but it’s a lovely old house,” says Kate Jerman, director of the Prism Center. This fall, Jerman and Prism Center staff are packing their boxes and moving to a bigger, better, permanent location in the Living/Learning Center’s C Building.
“Students have been actively asking for this space since the beginning. It’s been necessary and needed for many years — we outgrew the space in Allen House ages ago — but space is hard to come by on campus,” she says. In fact, the Prism Center was first established on the top floor of Allen House in 1999, and spread rapidly into tight rooms and spaces below.
It’s new home on the Athletic Campus will preserve the resources and amenities currently offered in Allen House, including mental and physical healthcare services; a library of LGBTQA-related books, comics and magazines; the David Bohnett Cyber Center with desktop work stations and discounted printing; and a student lounge — stocked with warm beverages, snacks, seating and game — for studying and gathering in a queer-affirming space.
Scheduled to relocate in October and open for students by the end of the semester, the move makes the Prism Center’s services fully accessible for all and will accommodate larger groups for meetings and events. Expanded evening services are also in the works.
“I cannot tell you how extremely excited and happy I am for the Prism Center and our community,” says Wanda Heading Grant, vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. "I have worked with a generation of UVM students, staff and faculty, who have advocated for such a time as this and I am so thrilled to be a part of this historic move. Thank you to all who have worked so hard before and now to make this happen.”
Jerman echoes the sentiment. “I’m excited about the possibilities the move creates for the Prism Center and to have such great news to share during such a challenging time. This is a momentous occasion for our campus and communities. We can’t wait to celebrate in a COVID-safe way. We’re grateful to everyone who made this possible.”
She hasn’t done the math yet, but Jerman estimates the new space will double their current square footage and allow for both open concept floor plans, as well as intimate and more private spaces, appropriate for drop-in appointments with Counseling and Psychiatry Services and the Center for Health and Wellbeing.
“It’s hard to predict the future, but it’s such an expansion of what’s possible for us,” she says. “I can only imagine growth from here and new opportunities. As the support for students grows and as more community and support is available to them, I think that’s going to change things for faculty and staff, too, and probably create more opportunities for us to engage as a larger community.”