Al Forbes may have just joined the staff of the Queer Resource Center of the Claremont Colleges (QRC), but he’s already busy planning discussions, working with students and preparing to develop a partnership between the QRC and area high schools.
Forbes, the new program coordinator for the QRC, arrived on campus four weeks ago. He replaced Ebony Williams, who is pursuing her Master’s Degree in Family Therapy.
As the program coordinator, Forbes will focus on collaborating with students and other organizations at the colleges to develop cross-campus programming.
Dr. Adriana di Bartolo, director of the QRC, explained that while she focuses on 7C policy and works at “a director and a dean level,” Forbes’ main role is “to reach out to the community of students and do programming based on the needs of the sexual- and gender-minoritized students at the colleges.”
Forbes added that his responsibilities include collaborating with the student staff of the QRC and guiding the staff’s three project teams as they plan events and programs.
“Al has really made a commitment to sit down with us and help us with structure,” QRC staff member Emily Hampshire SC ’15 said. “He’s been a great sounding board for us.”
One of Forbes’ major projects is the Dialogue Series, weekly discussions featuring different speakers and focusing on different topics. The first discussion was held Sept. 24.
“You don’t have to identify as a person of faith to come to the faith dialogue. You don’t have to identify as trans to come to the trans and non-binary gender dialogue,” Forbes said. “It’s really for all of us to learn and grow from each other and through our stories.”
Forbes is also involved in planning National Coming Out Day, the Transgender Day of Remembrance and the Queer Cross-Culture Series in collaboration with the International Place of the Claremont Colleges. In addition, Forbes will be a staff member for T-Camp, an inter college camp for about 60 transgender, queer and gender-non-conforming students in Southern California.
Forbes said he is looking forward to developing the Leadership and Engagement with Gender and Sexuality (LEGS) program, which connects Claremont students with high school students in the area. His experience working in Syracuse University’s Office of Engagement Programs during his graduate assistantship, he said, helped him learn about strengthening partnerships between colleges and their surrounding communities.
Hampshire, who co-facilitated the QRC’s Oct. 1 dialogue with Forbes, said, “We’ve just been having some really wonderful conversations about Al’s experiences in the past with queerness and faith, … intersectionality, and how to reach out to different parts of the community.”
Forbes was also drawn to the “student-driven” nature of the QRC and the way the Claremont consortium encourages colleges to share resources.
“Everyone here is very welcoming,” Forbes said. “I can tell that people are invested in each other as people and as students and employees in ways that I felt elsewhere, but I feel it so much stronger here: this energy of really being invested in each other’s lives.”
He added that working in an LGBTQ center in California is his “ideal” job.
“This was the work that I was passionate about, that excited me, the work that didn’t feel like work,” Forbes said.
Di Bartolo conducted a national job search before hiring Forbes. She said that there were many reasons she chose to hire Forbes, among them “his experience working in communities” and “the way in which he can articulate needs of LGBTQ students.”
“We’re a special place, and we need a special person who can work with our students, faculty and staff,” di Bartolo said. “And I think Al is that person.”
Students who want to meet Forbes can visit him during his drop-in hours on Wednesdays from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. and Thursdays from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Forbes will also give a talk Oct. 30 at the Women’s Union called “Life Stories and Life Lessons: A Conversation with Al Forbes.”