For over 20 years, the NYU LGBTQ Student Center has worked to create a safe and inclusive environment not only for LGBTQ students but also for allies in the community. This year, the veteran campus establishment welcomes a new face as Jon Hurst assumes the role of director of the LGBTQ Student Center.
An alumnus of Central State University and University of Buffalo and former director of the LGBTQIA Center at the University of Georgia, Hurst has experience in wellness education, HIV/AIDS outreach, social justice education and student affairs.
“I have found that my varied work has shown me to understanding how there are competing stakeholders that have bearing needs such as how do we balance the needs of the queer student that wants NYU to be a different institution, a better institution?” Hurst said.
Hurst added that the NYU LGBTQ center has more potential to achieve change compared to other universities as it does not operate within the traditional college boundaries.
“What a campus looks like at NYU is much different than at any other campus in the country,” Hurst said. “Our actual campus is New York City, which adds another level to the work to be done.”
Stemming from his vast experience at other universities throughout the country, Hurst said a successful student center should be accessible to all students.
“Having a center open for all types of students is important because there’s a belief that there’s only one type of student that comes to the LGBTQ center,” Hurst said. “Whether you’re just an ally, we want to have a space that can be transforming.”
Hurst’s experience in a college environment that was uncomfortable and alienating, has affected the way he approaches students.
“For me as an 18-year-old queer kid from Ohio, it was a major, major shock to my system,” Hurst said. “I encountered a campus that wasn’t ready to take me. This experience directly impacts the work I do today. I have an open heart and an open mind to help students grow and develop.”
Taking into account NYU’s global network sites around the world, Hurst said he has aspirations to extend the LGBTQ center work beyond the New York City campus.
“NYU is not only a great institution in a great city, but what about abroad?” Hurst said. “What does it take to create a safe queer campus? What does it look like creating a one in Shanghai — which will be another part of the portfolio. We need to address this.”
As the new director, Hurst hopes to continue the center’s continuous dedication to integrating a place of comfort and education within the NYU community.
“I don’t have to recreate the will,” Hurst said. “What I want to do now is think where we want to be in the next 20 years to support the contemporary American college student.”
A version of this article appeared in the Saturday, August 29, print edition. Email Nina Jang at [email protected]