Dr. Kristen Renzi aims to create a safe space for students to make their own
By Charlie Gstalder, Opinions and Editorials Editor
“I guess it won’t be hard to find,” I remember thinking as the silver doors slid open, showering me in scents of lavender vanilla candles and a sonic stew of academic chatter and childish squeals of delight.
I followed the sensory trail to Schott 407, where the Race, Intersectionality, Gender and Sociology (RIGS) Lounge opening party was underway. Inside, Gender and Diversity Studies (GDST) and RIGS professors and students were mingling over plates of Condado’s nachos and taking in the comforting space.
What was once an academic office had been transformed into a homey hideaway, with comfy couches and chairs arranged beside bookshelves brimming with scholarly sources and short-form zines.
The previously barren walls were adorned with sheets of white and black film, forming a collage of canvases on which students were welcome to write down their favorite quotes — either temporarily with erasable chalk pens on the black sheets or permanently with colored Sharpies on white sheets.
The RIGS Lounge, which opened last Friday, Oct. 28, was a project undertaken by RIGS Department Chair, GDST Director and English professor Dr. Kristen Renzi. The lounge was the fulfillment of a long-standing desire for a GDST common space, Renzi explained.
“When (GDST) merged with sociology and formed the RIGS Department, it was now even more important to find a space to have some kind of shared identity formation and for people to just get together in a chill, relaxed atmosphere,”Renzi said.
“It was important to me that it be a family-friendly space,” Renzi said, gesturing towards a bookcase containing picture books and a crinkly caterpillar plushy.
Among the more adult offerings are GDST and sociology textbooks, poetry collections and zines that Renzi hopes will function as an informal lending library.
“It’s also really important for me that students can claim this space… That’s one of the reasons for writing on the wallpaper, so students can make the space their own in whatever way made sense to them,” Renzi added.
For senior theater and English double major Mia Helbeg, that meant writing a Glennon Doyle quote: “I see your pain and it’s big. I also see your courage, and it’s bigger. We can do hard things.”
Helbig expressed her gratitude for the lounge and said she hoped her chosen quote would help curate encouragement.
Senior GDST and English double major Caroline Dziubek expressed her thankfulness and optimism about the future of the GDST program.
“I just think it’s such a great thing to see this program building and making a space dedicated for people who want to have conversations about things that this university has not provided the space for in the past.”
She added that she loves that people are allowed to write on the walls: “It feels very radical, even though we have to put up this paper to do it.”