As a leader and pioneer, Luke Jensen is responsible for much of the basic infrastructure that supports LGBT* people and LGBT work at the University of Maryland. His accomplishments and expertise are recognized nationally. Since 2002 he has represented the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals on the Board of Directors of the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS). He has served as a member of the National Advisory Committee for Expanding the Circle: Creating an Inclusive Environment in Higher Education for LGBTQ Students and Studies, an annual conference of the California Institute of Integral Studies. Within the University System of Maryland, he has chaired the LGBT Issues Committee of the Diversity Network, and has assisted other campuses as they build their infrastructure to support LGBT people.
President's Commission on LGBT Issues
On June 8 and 9, 1996, Luke Jensen hosted a retreat at his home attended by fifteen leaders and other members of the LGBT campus community. Active members of the LGBT community had focused on domestic partner benefits. At this retreat, the group determined the need to broaden the LGBT agenda and articulate a more comprehensive view of LGBT work at the University of Maryland. As they discussed the various needs, they determined to issue a formal report to President William E. Kirwan with a short list of recommendations concentrated on the basic structures the University of Maryland needed to build in order to address the various needs of the LGBT campus community.
From this retreat, Jensen became lead author of Embracing Diversity issued on November 6, 1996. Upon receiving the report, President Kirwan agreed immediately to the formation of the President's Commission on LGBT Issues and asked Jensen to be the first Chair. The Commission began meeting in early 1997, and continues to this day as the center of many important LGBT initiatives at the University of Maryland.
LGBT Equity Center
As Chair of the President's Commission on LGBT Issues, Luke Jensen led the effort to establish ongoing dedicated resources for LGBT students. After consulting with President Kirwan and Provost Gregory Geoffroy, the Commission proposed the creation of a position within Academic Affairs to assist LGBT people in connecting with appropriate resources. Provost Geoffroy determined the title, Coordinator of LGBT Equity, which he borrowed from the Pennsylvania State University. This was the first use of the word Transgender in the title of any position, unit or organization at the University of Maryland. It was located within Academic Affairs as that was the administrative location of other services for special populations such as the Nyumburu Cultural Center and the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Education.
Jensen became the Acting Coordinator of LGBT Equity in July 1998, and was made permanent after an appropriate search. In December 1999, this single position became the Office of LGBT Equity with Jensen as the Director. In the spring of 2010, Provost Nariman Farvardin determined that this unit needed to move and generously provided for the new location. With the move in October 2011, Provost Ann G. Wylie approved a change in the name to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Equity Center.
Presently, Jensen is still Director and has developed the various programs of the unit. These include the popular Lavender Graduation; a safe zone program, Rainbow Terrapin Network; and a peer education program, Speakers Bureau, which incorporates web-based innovations that are capturing the attention of other universities.
LGBT Scholarship Fund
In 1999, Luke Jensen established the LGBT Scholarship Fund for the benefit of students who work to end prejudice and discrimination against LGBT people. The fund is also used to assist students who find themselves in a financial emergency due to sexual orientation or gender identity.
Donations have been primarily in amounts of $50 to $500, and usually have been contributed at an annual Holiday Fundraiser. Over the years various individuals have generously hosted the fundraiser in their homes. The largest single infusion of money came in 2005 after Maryland alumnus James Wood (class of 1972) and his partner Peter Rodler sponsored a two for one fundraising campaign in which they pledged $10,000. The many donors who contributed smaller amounts over the years and who have provided the bulk of the funds currently available, made this single large gift possible. As of fall 2011, the LGBT Scholarship fund has disbursed about $15,000 to students. The fund's endowment has over $31,000 and there is an additional $12,000 readily available as an emergency fund.
Program in LGBT Studies
During the late 1990s, Luke Jensen provided the leadership to bring the faculty together and became lead author of the Proposal for a New Instructional Program [LGBT Studies] resulting in an Undergraduate Certificate. With the cooperation and diligence of many faculty, most notably Marilee Lindemann in English and Ruth Fassinger in Counseling and Personnel Services, Jensen led the effort to move the proposal through the myriad committees needed to approve and fund a new interdisciplinary program.
During that two-year effort, Jensen requested and Provost Gregory Geoffroy provided funding for the small number of courses needed to give cohesiveness to the existing LGBT curriculum so students could pursue the Certificate in advance of final approval. During those two years, a "shadow program" in LGBT Studies was administered by the Office of LGBT Equity with Jensen hiring the instructors for courses taught in cooperation with the Departments of Women's Studies, Communication, and Comparative Literature. He also advised students interested in the Undergraduate Certificate.
Shortly after becoming Provost, William Destler approved the relatively small amount of funding needed to move the proposal through its final stages. In spring 2002, the Program in LGBT Studies received its final approval, Provost Destler appointed Marilee Lindemann as first Director of the Program, and the first Certificate was awarded. Since that time, Professor Lindemann has built upon that foundation and now leads a vibrant, nationally recognized Program. Jensen remains a member of the Oversight Committee and is responsible for two courses: LGBT 350, LGBT People and Communication; and LGBT 386, Internship in LGBT Community Organizations.
- March 4, 2011: with Judie Wexler, "Measuring LGBTQ Student Success and the Role of Assessment in Academic and Student Affairs." Expanding the Circle: creating and inclusive environment in higher education for LGBTQ students and studies. Conference sponsored by the California Institute of Integral Studies. San Francisco, CA.
- February 3, 2011: "CAS Standards and Guidelines for LGBT Programs and Services: the recently approved updated version." Annual Meeting of the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals concurrent with the Annual Meeting of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force: Creating Change. Minneapolis, MN.
- September 23, 2010: "LGBT Programs & Services: Meeting CAS Standards for the LGBTQIA Community in Challenging Economic Times." Diversity Summit. Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Kutztown University, Kutztown, PA.
- February 17, 2010: "Addressing the Needs of LGBTQ Students." Preparing Future Faculty Conference, Howard University, Washington, DC.
- October 26, 2009: "Hate Crimes: Moving from discrimination to tolerance." Panel discussion with Allison Bennett, Brian Levin, Steven Selden, and Ronald Zeigler. Provost's Conversations on Diversity, Democracy, and Higher Education. University of Maryland, College Park.
- August 6, 2008: "Understanding our students: Supporting LGBT identities." Staff Development Institute, Bowie State University.
- June 5, 2008: "Transgender Employees: Support and inclusion of transgender people at work." Diversity Leadership Council, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD.
- March 4, 2008: "Office of LGBT Equity: LGBT work on college campuses today." Preparing Future Faculty Conference, Howard University, Washington, DC.
- February 7, 2008: "Using CAS Standards (Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education)." Annual Meeting of the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals, Detroit, MI.
Luke Jensen, Ph.D.
Director, LGBT Equity Center
2218 Marie Mount Hall
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742
tel: 301 405-8721
*LGBT is used throughout, however this work at Maryland began with references only to lesbians and gay men. Over time, bisexuals and transgender people were included. Currently, it should be understood to be broadly inclusive of many related identities with nomenclature going far beyond these four terms. These may include Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Bi-Affectionate, Pansexual, Fluid, Asexual, Genderqueer, Men who have sex with men (MSM), and Women who partner with women, in addition to terms rooted primarily in communities of color, such as Same Gender Loving (SGL) in African American communities, Khush in South Asian populations, and Two Spirit among American Indian peoples.