On January 2, Bruce E. Smail became the second person in IU history to helm the LGBTQ+ Culture Center—one of the many centers under the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs (OVPDEMA). Officially titled, interim director of the LGBTQ+ Culture Center and special assistant to the vice president, Smail is eager to tackle the responsibility of directing one of IU’s most recognizable institutes.
Smail’s history at IU dates back to 1994 when he was a student in the Higher Education and Student Affairs doctoral program during the LGBTQ+ Culture Center’s—then known as the GLBT Support Services office—inaugural year. Smail would eventually work and get to know the former director, Doug Bauder, as he researched the intersectionality of race and sexuality in gay and bisexual Black college men. Additionally, Smail was the first person to create a GLBT 101 course on campus, which he taught for two semesters. Smail was also one of the few graduate students who served on the Student Coalition, whose 1997 MLK Day march was responsible for the creation of a full-time support staff member for the LGBTQ+ Culture Center, the Asian American Culture Center, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration on campus.
“For me, the opportunity to come back twenty-something years later and be able to continue the work Doug has done over the last 25 years while looking to create a new national model on how LGBTQ+ Culture Centers can look is extremely exciting for me in this leadership role,” Smail said.
Smail previously worked in several positions pertaining to diversity issues, such as serving as director of the Cross Cultural Center at the University of California, Davis, and director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, & Transgender Resource Center at the University of Colorado. Most recently, Smail worked as deputy director of the Black AIDS Institute in Los Angeles, California.
“I have been living with HIV since 2003,” Smail said. “Working to destigmatize and discuss the issue of HIV and its impact while working to address health disparities in the LGBT community is something I am very passionate about.”
As interim director, Smail will work as the director of the LGBTQ+ Culture Center for three and a half years before the opportunity to apply for the full-time position becomes available. During this time, Smail will be working with students, staff, and faculty to address issues of sexual identity, gender identity, and intersectionality, while bringing awareness to LGBTQ+ issues on campus. In his role as special assistant to the vice president, Smail will work to assess the five culture centers on campus and use his expertise to.
While it is still early, Bruce is excited to develop new programs for the center as he continues to build relationships with people in the IU community, alumni association, and in philanthropic circles.
“Right now, my goal is to ensure our students and staff have support around LGBTQ issues and being there and creating opportunities for people to get to know me, while also reacquainting myself with the community,” Smail said. “I want to look at the center from different perspectives and make sure this center is inclusive to everyone.”
“When we look at the LGBTQ community, it cuts across all communities and wanting to be sure the services and programs that we’re doing is also reflective of all communities,” Smail said. “I want to make sure that this center is serving the needs of the community. I don’t want this center to be my vision for what an LGBTQ+ center should look like. Instead, it should be representative of the community and grow and change as they do. This center is not about me; it’s about the community.”
OVPDEMA will host a Meet & Greet Reception with Smail on February 3 from 4:00-5:30 p.m. in the Indiana Memorial Union Solarium with brief remarks by Smail at 4:30 p.m.