The letter \"Q\" over a rainbow made of paint brush strokes

Getting to know Q

VCU’s Q Collective provides opportunities for members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

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Heading into its third year, the Queer Research and Advocacy Center, known as the Q Collective, serves as a creative and intellectual hub in support of LGBTQIA+ artistic and scholarly activities among Virginia Commonwealth University faculty, staff, students and the Greater Richmond community. 

“There are not a lot of LGBTQIA+ groups supporting research, scholarship and advocacy in Virginia or the country,” said Archana A. Pathak, Ph.D., interim director of the Q Collective and an associate professor in the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences. “The combination of doing the work and understanding the integrated relationship between communities, scholarship and efficacy isn’t something you will find in many other places.”

People doing research in this area ultimately want to make the community better, said Pathak, who is also special assistant for special projects for the Office of Institutional Equity, Effectiveness and Success.

“It’s about creating more inclusive spaces and creating a more just world. It’s about that relationship between what we do and the purpose of what we do. This center is positioning us to be a part of this conversation in a very meaningful way, and it’s going to put us in the forefront on these topics,” she said.

The Q Collective recognizes that a university is a vibrant community where all employees deserve to be their most authentic selves. The center now houses Equality VCU, the long-standing LGBTQIA+ employee and advocacy organization and one that was in the forefront of advocating for the creation of the Q Collective.

“This partnership brings us full circle from the consistent, diligent work done by LGBTQIA+ advocates,” Pathak said.

The center provides the opportunity for members of the LGBTQIA+ community to engage in scholarship where they can see themselves in that research as well as produce knowledge for the community to consume, said Maurice Gattis, Ph.D., an associate professor in the School of Social Work and senior adviser for the Q Collective.

“It helps non-LGBTQIA+ [people] have a window in and that’s the core of the role of higher education in the community,” said Gatties, who is part of iCubed's Intersections in the Lives of LGBTQIA+ Communities core. “I think as we continue we want to learn about others as well as see ourselves. That’s important.”

Listed below are five things to know about the Q Collective and what it does:

It hosts an annual Scholar in Residence and Q Symposium featuring LGBTQIA+ research, scholarship and performances.

This spring at its inaugural symposium and scholar-artist visit, the collective hosted author E. Patrick Johnson, Ph.D., Annenberg professor and dean of the School of Communication at Northwestern University, where he founded the Black Arts Initiative. Johnson is the author of “Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South — An Oral History” and “Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women” and created the prize-winning documentary, “Making Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South,” which screened during his visit to VCU. The symposium brought together leaders and scholars across several departments at VCU and, in a unique closing virtual presentation, a series of revolutionary thinkers from around the country in a panel titled, “Boundless: Black Futurity & Worldmaking in the Age of Catastrophe,” co-sponsored with the Department of Dance and Choreography and organized by assistant professor Julian Kevon Glover, Ph.D.

It holds workshops, including an LGBTQIA+ Grant Writing 101 this past spring.

April’s free Grant Writing 101 workshop included scholars whose work focused on inter/transdisciplinary LGBTQIA+ concepts. Information was provided on grant writing and bringing a queer focus to grants. It was presented by Josh Hahn from VCU’s Office of Sponsored Programs.

It hosts Camp Qmunity, a summer intensive for students.

A portrait of Archana A. Pathak, Ph.D. speaking into a microphone on a podium
Archana A. Pathak, Ph.D., interim director of the Q Collective. (Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

This year’s summer camp is titled “Queer Interventions: Space and Place Making.” Topics will range from asking “what does queer space look like?” and “how do we queer space?” to playing with space/place making as a group. Featured guest speakers will be artists, designers and writers who question place and think about what “queering” means as an action. Students will study and engage with mentors and scholars from throughout the VCU community and outside of it. This interdisciplinary intensive culminates in a group project where the students will make graphic interventions (and define those) in existing VCU digital space. Pathak is co-directing the camp along with nicole killian, an associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Graphic Design.

In a past camp, students created Queer Circle at VCU, a digital hub of queer resources that aims to elevate LGBTQIA+ goals, achievements and opportunities available within the VCU community and beyond.

It funds trans/interdisciplinary research projects.

The Q Collective is a space that addresses and supports LGBTQIA+ communities and questions through meaningful multi- and interdisciplinary approaches. These projects serve to bring scholars together around key questions leading to interventions that ultimately improve the lives of LGBTQIA+ communities. The current funded project focuses on the transformation of the medical curriculum to make it more gender and sexuality inclusive. The team includes researchers from the departments of English; Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies; Health Behavior and Policy; Health Sciences; Medicine; and Psychology and the School of Social Work.

It connects students with REAL opportunities like internships.

Since fall 2021, all incoming undergraduates must complete at least one Relevant, Experiential and Applied Learning experience before they graduate. The Q Collective serves as a REAL resource and can connect students to queer-focused opportunities such as an internship with Black Pride RVA, where students work with Us Giving Richmond Connections, the organization that produces the event, to create community assessments and design programs that are informed by the information collected.