Molly Holmes works behind-the-scenes so the needs of the LGBTQIA+ community are front and center. As director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, Holmes leads the charge on advocacy and equity for all genders and sexual identities in order to make NIU’s campus an inclusive place to live and learn.
“My favorite part of the job is working alongside and for our students,” Holmes said. “That allows me to take their voices and their experiences with me and informs the policy and advocacy work that happens behind-the-scenes.”
Prior to joining NIU, Holmes earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from Western Illinois University and worked at Indiana University where she served on the LGBTQ Incidents Team, creating facility and policy change for transgender students living on campus.
Holmes was hired by NIU in 2007 as a complex coordinator in Housing and Residential Services, and in 2010, she was named the director of the Gender of Sexuality Resource Center.
“The Gender and Sexuality Resource Center serves in an important support role,” Holmes said. “We support students and faculty and staff outside of the classroom and work year-round to craft and develop ways to enhance the educational experience.”
Programs like the LGBTQIA+ Speakers Bureau, LGBTQ+ and Trans Ally trainings, a lending library and scholarships and awards are just a few of the ways the center contributes to the institutional value of diversity and inclusion.
“We support students in a variety of ways, and also help support faculty and staff in their learning about being inclusive in their classroom spaces and their department workspaces,” Holmes said.
Holmes said the support is possible because NIU students are experts on their own identities and experiences who are willing to put in the work to improve the overall student experience.
An example is the Trans Action Task Force (TATF), comprised of transgender, non-conforming and non-binary students who are responsible for advising NIU administrators on policies and practices that can be more inclusive for these students.
“Without students sharing their experiences our work would be less multi-faceted,” Holmes said. “What they do in sharing their voices – giving the whole of their identities – helps me to be a better advocate and allows me to carry their voices through everything we do.”
Holmes has seen a lot of positive change and improvements over the past nine years, but there is always work to be done.