Editor’s note: This story is an updated version of the story in the UP’s latest issue that can be found digitally through our Issuu page.
For the past two years, Geanny Joseph Ruiz has been the leader of LGBTQ+ initiatives for the Center for Inclusion, Diversity, Education, and Allyship (IDEAs). Having graduated from FAU in 2013 with a bachelor’s in communication and being a member of the Communications Honor Society, she knew FAU was a place she could make an impact long-term.
“When the opportunity presented itself to return as a professional, I decided to take it,” said Ruiz.
Ruiz has always had an affinity for helping marginalized communities, she said. “Prior to my time at FAU, I worked as a project specialist for a non-profit organization [that] provided mental health and substance abuse services throughout Broward County. Working in public health revealed to me the unique challenges and inequities that much of the LGBTQ+ community faces,” said Ruiz.
This non-profit was the Broward Behavioral Health Coalition, whose mission is “to advocate and ensure an effective and efficient behavioral health system of care is available in Broward County.”
When asked what she felt her biggest accomplishments were, Ruiz said it was the “completion of the Campus Pride Index and bridging support systems for LGBTQ+ students across the campus/institution.”
The Campus Pride Index is a national benchmarking tool for higher education institutions “to create safer, more inclusive campus communities.” This index was created by the non-profit organization Campus Pride. Currently, FAU has an index number of 4.5 out of 5 stars with 40/50 sections completed.
“We knew that upon completely [the index] that we’d be able to have a clear idea or clearer sense of where we were falling short in terms of policy, programming, procedures, and what gaps needed to be filled,” said Ruiz.
Ruiz explained the Center was very excited about receiving a 4.5 this year. In 2017, when they first submitted to the index, the school was scored a 3.5. “We [have] made a marked improvement,” said Ruiz.
One of the jobs Ruiz has is facilitating cultural competency trainings.
“Facilitating cultural competency trainings has always been and always will be the most challenging and fulfilling aspect of my role,” said Ruiz. “Having conversations about identity, equity, and inclusion can be challenging due to the complexity of these themes, I have learned the importance and value of truly leaning into the work.”
The purpose of the trainings is to equip attendees with the knowledge to be a better ally to communities they may not identify with.
Ruiz is working on enhancing the programs that the Center of IDEAs already offers.
“Some initiatives to look out for [are] Ally Week coming up April 5-9, a revamped LGBTQ+ Peer Mentor Program launching [in] Fall 2021, [and] advancements to Safe Zone curriculum and offerings.”
As for Women’s History Month, Ruiz said the month is important because of the visibility it provides. “Women’s History Month is an opportunity to highlight the phenomenal contributions women have made to society. It is also an opportunity to raise awareness about the issues and inequities women continue to face,” said Ruiz.
While it was hard to pick just one, Ruiz said her favorite memories so far at the Center for IDEAs “all involve witnessing the academic, professional, and social growth of my students and fellow colleagues.”
While the FAU community still has a lot of growing to do, Ruiz has two words of advice: “Keep going.”
Ruiz said that phrase is important to her with her job in higher ed.
“Processes can feel slow but in actuality, policy procedure is forever changing and so the seeds you plant today will grow eventually. So, you just keep going and heading in the direction you feel is right,” said Ruiz.
For Ruiz, “keep going” is a rule of thumb.
“[It’s something] I tell my students too, a lot of times they may come in and feel at a loss because of whatever circumstance they may be dealing with—just to hear don’t give up, keep going, even if it’s just one step at a time. You don’t have to worry about next year, or tomorrow, really just worry about today and moving into the next moment.”
Marcy Wilder is the web editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet her @MarcyJWilder.