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Assistant Director of LGBTQ+ Resources Excited to Build a Community at the University
Meet Ian Shick, assistant director of LGBTQ+ resources for the University’s Myatt Center for Diversity and Inclusion, who enjoys exploring their new home in Connecticut and is excited to bring their knowledge and experience of LGBTQ+ support and education to Charger Nation.
October 14, 2021
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
The lifeblood of the University of New Haven are the faculty and staff members who dedicate their lives to helping our students reach their goals. Periodically, we’ll introduce you to a member of the staff so you can learn more about them – beyond their day to day work.
Next up is Ian Shick, who enjoys science fiction and horror movies as well as exploring gender theory and philosophy.
Renee Chmiel: What about living in Connecticut are you most excited about?
Ian Shick: Buffalo, New York is my hometown, but I’ve also lived all across New York state. I am most excited about how centrally located Connecticut is in the Northeast. Connecticut has beautiful waterfronts, is close to New York City, and is close to other New England staples such as Boston, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, and Provincetown. I love to be active, and being able to do all of that within two hours or so is so amazing.
RC: What is your favorite way to spend a Saturday?
IS: I love to go out and explore. My favorite Saturdays are ones where I hop in the car with my partner and we go to a new town, or a museum/zoo/aquarium, and just explore. To me, these experiences allow me to be present in the moment and just absorb a day of fun.
RC: What about serving as the University’s assistant director for LGBTQ+ programming, are you most excited about?
IS: I think I am most excited about serving LGBTQ+ students and building community with them. LGBTQ+ communities, especially those anchored by a center at a college, were what saved my life as an undergraduate. They helped me discover myself, they picked me up when I struggled through graduating, and they provided me the room to learn and grow. Being able to do that here, to provide a safe space, but to also challenge people to grow in their understanding of gender and sexuality and how they intersect with so many other identities and experiences is so rewarding. As for goals, this first year is all about learning about the community, learning what its needs are, where its strengths are, and how I can best support that important work.
RC: What are some of your favorite movies?
IS: My top two genres are science fiction and horror, and both are important genres to the Queer Community. Science fiction is a genre that can trace its origins to Mary Shelley and her novel Frankenstein, a book about the power and danger of science questioning the meaning of life. For horror, we have a similar identity of stories about monsters and the unknown. Both genres are full of Queer references and Trans representation because those were the industries that our communities were allowed to be in and thrive in. To narrow it down to a few movies, I would pick The Matrix and Dario Argento’s Suspiria.
RC: What about your previous work related to LGBTQ+ support and education has been most meaningful to you?
IS: My last job was at Binghamton University’s Q Center as the education and training coordinator, and, before that, I was the Q Center’s graduate assistant while I was pursuing my dual master’s degrees in public administration and student affairs administration. Within the Q Center, I did a little bit of everything. I programmed and supervised programming interns. I also created education and training programs for students and employees, which culminated in the creation of the Active Ally Program, a three-tiered Allyship Identity Development & Leadership Program centered on LGBTQ+ support.
I’ve served on Common Read committees, I’ve developed diversity statements for administration, and I’ve supported intergroup dialogues on contentious topics such as 1st Amendment rights, gender equity, and racial equity. In each of these projects, I always centered people in the work.
I believe in people and their ability to solve problems when they are properly prepared and equipped to solve them. For students, it was connecting them together and providing the support and care for them to succeed. And for employees, it was about providing them the space, skills, and knowledge to support LGBTQ+ students, while being transparent and honest with them.
So many of my most impactful moments came from talking through the challenges of gender accessibility in college. In each of these conversations, folks would come back to the fear of not knowing everything and continually getting it wrong, whether it was names, pronouns, or some other problem. But in this scenario, instead of centering care and the students, we are centering our own productivity and the pressure to be successful at all things, which is a symptom of capitalism and rugged individuality. Whenever these conversations head that way, we stop, we take a breath, and we remind ourselves that the ultimate goal is the health and safety of our students. We remember that not getting it right shouldn’t stop us from trying, and that when we try, we are not alone.
Those employees had me and the Center to email their questions to, but more than that, they also had each other in those trainings. They also had a community to connect and share strategies with and to remind themselves that others are going through the same things and have conquered those issues. They can see that improvement, growth, and development are possible. My love for this work is in the people it both trains and helps, because it reminds me that people care, they’re messy, they’re brilliant, and that solutions can come from anywhere and anyone. You just have to be willing to risk being wrong and try again.
RC: What are you passionate about?
IS: Outside of work, I am passionate about gender theory and philosophy. This love comes from watching YouTube videos by PhilosophyTube and ContraPoints, both by trans women who dissect society and topics through a lens of philosophy. For me, gender theory and philosophy are fascinating because they ask fundamental questions about the nature of who we are and why we do the things we do. For example, I am very much a fan of Judith Butler and her theories of gender. In the theories, Butler posits that gender is a performative action, meaning that when I say I am a gender, be it boy, girl, or something else, I am not simply making a statement, I am performing a whole mess of social cues in the hope that you have some reaction – hopefully positive – that reinforces my experience or expectation.
In this way, Butler is making a commentary about how gender is really not about bodies or the science of bodies, it is more about the performance of bodies and whether it matches what science we have constructed and what social interactions we have constructed. Add in philosophy, such as metaphysics, and you get such interesting questions about whether there are fundamental differences in gender and whether it is something we have constructed as a society according to what it values at the time. For me in my work, I use these theories to begin to analyze and make changes that begin to address this block in social expectations around gender, but in my social life, it is just fun to explore why and how these things come to be. It is interesting to consider what it would be like if we constructed gender to be about hair color or profession and how in various societies that has already happened.
I also do love Anime, Magic the Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, and video games. I especially enjoy those from the early 2000s on PlayStation, such as Crash Bandicoot, Jak & Daxter, and Final Fantasy.
RC: If you could have one super power, what would it be?
IS: If I could have one super power it would be the ability to shapeshift in any form, be it human or otherwise. For me, this is very much a Trans, fluid, kind of experience. When your gender presentation flows so extremely, and you also are contending with societal expectations around gender, it would be such a joy to be able to morph your body into exactly what you want, when you want it. There is also the feeling that sometimes you just want to morph and be something outside of human, too, because human feels too limiting. How cool would it be to wake up and say, “Today I am really feeling like a fairy,” and then, Bam!, you are one. That would be awesome!