LGBT grad students launch QGrad, graduate and professional student association

QGradGroupQGrad, a new lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, ally (LGBTQA+) association for graduate and professional students, will kick off with a party on Thursday, Sept. 4.

The two-hour event, cosponsored by the LGBT Center, begins at 6 p.m. at the Barking Spider Tavern, 11310 Juniper Rd., on the CWRU campus (behind Alumni House). Free pizza and beer will be provided and RSVPs can be sent to

QGrad president Paul Cheng, an MD/PhD student in Neuroscience within the School of Medicine, encourages students to take a break from the lab, office or library to meet people and learn what others are doing around campus.

The kick-off party is the first of many events QGrad has planned to bring people together. Future events include workshops on navigating workplace politics as a LGBT student, professional development workshops, and domestic violence awareness for same-sex partners. Cheng said more committee leaders and ideas for other events are needed. Suggestions to are welcome.

Cheng and his executive board worked through the summer with 2014 Physiology and Biophysics alumnus Quentin Jamieson, PhD, to form QGrad. Jamieson led a previous LGBT graduate association in 2009 and shared his organizational experience gained through service as Graduate Student Senate (GSS) president 2010-2012.

In addition to Cheng, QGrad’s leadership includes:

  • Becky Schur, vice president, a biomedical engineering student working on MRI contrast agents (School of Engineering)
  • DaShawn Hickman, treasurer, an MD/PhD student in biomedical engineering working in the area of hemostatic nanoparticles (School of Engineering)
  • Valentino Zullo, education committee chair, a social work student interested in both the study of comic books and mental health (Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences)
  • Luke Keltner, social committee chair, a theoretical physics student (Graduate Studies, College of Arts and Science)
  • Michal Bonar, public relations committee chair, a molecular virology students, researching HIV immunology (School of Medicine)

“The QGrad group fills a gap in student services for LGBTQA graduate and professional students,” said Elisabeth Roccoforte, director of the LGBT Center. “There has been a need for an umbrella graduate and professional student group for a long time, and QGrad will help meet that social, professional and networking need.  The LGBT Center is thrilled to work with them to make the group a vibrant and thriving success.”

Cheng also stressed that he wants to see QGrad represent the diversity of the LGBT student community, particularly encouraging transgender persons and people of color to get involved. Cheng additionally wants to highlight how the identities of LGBT students are shaped by the intersectionalities of race, socioeconomic status, gender expression, religion, and more. QGrad also fills a void for individuals seeking to participate in an LGBT organization when such groups are not available to them in some of the campus’ schools, he said.

T. Kenny Fountain, associate professor of English and QGrad’s faculty adviser, said grad and professional students can often be so focused on a discipline that they feel alienated from the rest of campus.

“Groups like QGrad can contribute to a more satisfying grad and work experience while here,” Fountain said.