New LGBTQIA programs and services assistant director encourages inclusivity

After attending graduate school at Missouri State University, the new Assistant Director of LGBTQIA Programs and Services, Kari Jo Freudigmann, is returning to the area for a new opportunity.

Originally from Wisconsin, Freudigmann never expected to go to school in Missouri, or even eventually work at Penn State.

Despite the unexpected change, she’s excited about being back.

Freudigmann previously served as the programming coordinator at the LGBTQIA Student Resource Center at Penn State. During this time she worked with student interns, helped develop the center’s website and coordinated programs, like the university’s month-long pride month celebrations.

Director of the Office of Student Involvement, Todd Wells, was part of the committee that selected Freudigmann for the position. He cited her years of experience working with college students as one of the reasons she was the right fit for UMKC.

“We looked at her ability to create innovative, new support programs for all students, and her work at Penn State was fantastic,” Wells said. “That’s what rose to the top for us: a clear and dedicated belief in student success and an understanding of how to work with all students, particularly LGBT students that we know need different levels of support and understanding.”

At Penn State, the LGBTQIA Center was its own organization. At UMKC, it is part of the Office of Student Involvement.

Freudigmann said this difference in how the office is set up is one of the main reasons she’s looking forward to the new position.

“I will have a lot more flexibility in what the programming will look like,” Freudigmann said. “I’ll be able to take on more responsibility in large-scale programming and advocacy throughout the campus. Something that I would like to do in my future is be the director of a center, so it will definitely help me feel more comfortable and confident.”

One of Freudigmann’s priorities is expanding the programs currently offered at UMKC, looking at what’s working and what could be improved. She also plans on implementing some of what she saw work during her time at Penn State.

Freudigmann plans on going over and improving existing programming, as well as promoting things that are doing well. She emphasized “making sure that students of all intersections feel comfortable using the space and feel comfortable attending programs.”

Putting her bachelor’s degree in graphic design to use, Freudigmann also did marketing and design during her time as programming coordinator. She plans on using these skills to improve the visibility of the center around campus.

“I hope with my background I’ll be able to market it more; one thing I’d like to do is bring the name of the office throughout campus and make sure people understand what our office offers,” Freudigmann said. “One of the hardest things can be that students don’t know the office exists.”

LGBTQIA Programs and Services plays many roles on campus, including providing support and resources to students who may be struggling. However, the center also strives to make the entire campus more inclusive and aware.

“If we could also educate and create more allies on campus, that could also help out as well,” Freudigmann said.

As she settles in, Freudigmann encourages students to stop by the office if they’re in need of any resources.

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