IST class project provides new digital home for LGBTQ community

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Through his involvement with the President’s Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Equity at Penn State, Damian Salonick learned that the commission wanted to improve the digital presence of all the LGBTQ organizations at Penn State. With several organizations and events serving their community, they needed a central hub to reach faculty, staff and students.

It was a serendipitous moment for the College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) senior because he was currently enrolled in IST 440W, a class offering a problem-based approach to technology integration by focusing on real-life problems faced by an organization. Salonick’s team was searching for an organization that fit this description, and they found one in the commission.

“All of the current LGBTQ sites are scattered in different places,” Salonick said. Borja Gutiérrez, the 2016-2018 commission chair, envisioned a website where all of the resources available to the LGBTQ community could be found.  

“It was kind of the right place and the right time; I stepped up and said this could work out really, really well,” Salonick said.

Once they had their project, Salonick and his team members — IST seniors Kathleen Beck, Wares Farighi, Harrison Goniprow, Chris Jacobs, and Cameron McDaniel — hit the ground running. “The incredible amount of teamwork and team-building exercises we got over the past four years created this natural flow,” Jacobs said.

The group noted how the emphasis in the IST curriculum on solving real-world problems prepared them well for the project. It allowed them to not only flex their technical and project management skills, but also to support an environment of inclusion within Penn State. It was more than simply completing a class project for a grade. “[Through our work,] we wanted it to demonstrate that it was made for the community,” Goniprow said.

Gutiérrez said of the site, “I hope this new website becomes a tangible, albeit virtual, means of demonstrating how the LGBTQ community is interwoven into the fabric of Penn State and the Commonwealth.”

The students were invited to present their work to Penn State President Eric Barron, who commended the students for both their collaboration and the new site.

“The opportunities presented to us through this project were pretty awesome,” Beck said. “I didn’t think I’d ever present a project to the president of the University!”

With this accomplishment under their belts, the students couldn’t help but reflect on their time at IST. “My first year, I didn’t know anything about web design,” Jacobs said. “And now, we ended up making something for the real world that you can be proud of. The work we’re doing is going to help real people with real problems.”

Goniprow agreed, adding, “I was having epiphany moments at the beginning of this class, that everything we’ve learned was coming together.” Their project resulted in a completely new site, with bolder visual elements, integrated social media feeds, a comprehensive event calendar, and a community discussion forum.

“I definitely needed a site like this [before coming to Penn State], and they didn’t have it at the time,” Salonick said. When discovering the webpage, he hopes future students get a sense of the camaraderie and inclusion that Penn State has developed for the LGBTQ community.

“I hope if there’s a student who’s worried about their sexual identity coming to Penn State, this will come up in a Google search,” Salonick said. “This is everything in one spot. It will kind of allow them to picture themselves here and show them there’s a community here with resources, activities, housing options, and a bunch of different opportunities.”

The revamped site is expected to debut later this summer, with an official announcement coming from the Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Equity.

Last Updated May 24, 2017