Struble celebrated after five years at MU

Struble is heading back California to obtain an MFA in creative writing at Mills College, and she is going back to write her book, most likely a memoir.
Portrait of Struby Struble, LGBTQ Resource Center coordinator. Struble is leaving her post to pursue graduate studies at Mills College in California.

Five years ago, the LGBTQ Resource Center was a far cry from the vibrantly colored and welcoming place that it is now. Beginning as a small corner room, the center’s presence can now be felt beyond the basement of the MU Student Center and across campus.

Spring 2010 was a pivotal time for the LGBT community on campus. The position of LGBTQ Resource Center coordinator opened up and 2004 MU graduate Struby Struble jumped at the chance to make a difference.

“I had a lot of ideas about what I wanted to bring to the table and just knew that I could help MU LGBTQ into the success I knew it could have on campus,” Struble said.

Senior Shane Stinson arrived on campus shortly after Struble and witnessed the growth of the LGBTQ Resource Center first-hand.

“When I was a freshman, I had a really hard time fitting in on the University of Missouri's campus,” Stinson said. “I didn't really find a queer community. It was really a bad semester for me, to the point where I thought I wasn't going to be coming back to the University of Missouri the second semester.”

Stinson, who identifies as transgender, found his way to Struby through the concern of his mother and her desire to find her son a safe space on campus.

“(Struby) sat there with me and walked (me) through the fact that I was going to be OK,” Stinson said. “She walked me over to the counseling center herself and through that she asked me about my life. She asked me about who I was, why I came to Mizzou, what I wanted to do at Mizzou, and she made it feel in just those interactions that I was important.”

Shortly afterwards, Stinson began to volunteer in the center and become more and more involved within the LGBT community.

“She was a counselor for me in a lot of ways and she's been there for me through some of the hardest times of my entire life,” Stinson said.

First on Struble’s list was the intentional focus on the importance of ally development while increasing in-community programing.

“So things like the pride photo started as a very radical in-community, somewhat risky act and now has become one of our largest, most public ally showings,” Struble said.

Under her leadership, the LGBT community increased their involvement and presence during Mizzou Homecoming. By introducing the Black and Gold Drag Show that would take place during Coming Out Week and right around Homecoming, the community has become more excited about larger campus events.

“Orgs used to do very small scale pride parades, like just on their own where like maybe 20 or so people would show up and walk around,” Struble said. “We made it a centralized part of our pride month programing. Now it's a 200- to 300-person event that a lot of people look forward to every year and really helps up our visibility and shows our support on campus.”

Struble brought LGBT training to Summer Welcome leaders to ensure that students will feel accepted as soon as they step foot on campus.

Josey Herrera, recent graduate and media producer for the Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative, met Struble through their volunteer work in the Women’s Center and cites the Pride photo as a perfect representation of Struble’s impact on campus.

“I mean, you see them all on the wall and, suddenly the first year she's there, it's huge,” Herrera said. “Truman the Tiger is there, the chancellor is there and there's all these people, and it was the biggest photo in a long time. She's so friendly and so outgoing and welcoming and inclusive and that people really felt comfortable taking that and rolling with it.”

The center grew rapidly as more students volunteered, organizations within the center filled and students came in with ideas for new organizations.

“I think one of the things I'm most proud of is the collaboration around Michael Sam coming out and the positive response our campus had to that,” Struble said.

The center began a collaboration within the MU Athletic Department by introducing LGBT topics and the histories of LGBT athletes.

“We did a very in-depth training on how to be an ally to all of the male athletes, specifically on how to be an ally to your teammate, or at least how to be respectful of who your teammate is,” Struble said.

When Struby would visit the department, she would bring along various items from the LGBTQ Resource Center, including rainbow MU Pride bracelets. Michael Sam would wear his bracelet during every game his senior year.

“There's still work to be done all across our campus but I think that there's been a lot of positive strides moved forwards,” Struble said.

On a more personal level, Struble had a way of communicating with others in a way that is not often seen.

“She was a listening ear at the same time as being someone who would give you direction,” Stinson said. “I can personally say that I feel accepted and embraced on this campus because of the work that she's done.”

Herrera grew closer to Struby through their joint membership in LSV and work with the Vagina Monologues. Herrera decided to run for Homecoming king, and while they were sponsored by the Women’s Center, leadership was in flux, so Struby stepped in.

“She went to all the events with me, she sat with me at the Homecoming football game, went to the banquets with me and stuff like that, just because my family lives all the way in Florida and they can't visit,” Herrera said. “She worked really hard to make sure I was being supported and there was someone there for me all the time.”

At the banquet held for the top-10 royalties, the Mizzou Alumni Association had contacted the families of the candidates and asked them to write letters to be read aloud during the event. Herrera’s parents were unable to be contacted as english is not their first language, and they were unfamiliar with Herrera’s coming out process. Herrera began to get nervous, they would be the only one without a letter.

“It turns out that Struby and two other people at the Women's Center got together and had written me the best letter I could ever imagine,” Herrera said. “I was trying to figure out who wrote it, and toward the end I could start hearing Struby's voice in the writing. That was really the most touching thing that I think anyone has ever done for me it was so unexpected.”

Struble is heading back to Oakland, California, where she spent her years between graduating from and returning to MU, as a semi-professional soccer player to obtain an MFA in creative writing at Mills College. Most importantly, she is going back to write her book, most likely a memoir.

“I've always been a really big writer, so I think it's time,” Struble said. “Everyone will get to know me a lot better in two to three years.”

Struble is not saying goodbye to Columbia completely as she plans to return “all the time.”

“I'm already starting to plan when my fall return dates will be,” she said. “I'll most likely come back for Homecoming … and then come back in the spring. Columbia is definitely home. I have a lot of family here, so I'll be back a lot.”

When asked about the possibility of returning to campus, Struby answered without hesitation.

“I would be just so honored and proud to ever be invited back for campus programming,” Struby said. “I would be touched and thrilled to have the opportunity to do that.”

Struby has left a lasting impression on campus due to her passion and belief in the importance of the individual.

“It's really important to take an active role in every aspect of your life, so while you're in school here, take an active role in your education, be an active participant in what's happening around you,” Struby said.

Struby said she recommends seeking out an unrelated minor or a multicultural certificate and stresses the importance of using the resources available on campus like the MU Counseling Center, the Student Health Center and the many programs available.

“Remember that you're just making the next decision, not the final decision,” Struby said. “I think a lot of people get paralyzed by the pressure of I now have to decide my life, and no you don't. You just have to decide your next life step.”

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