Staff Spotlight: Caitlin O’Neill

Describe briefly what you do and how long have you been at Brown.

My name is Caitlin O’Neill and I’m the Assistant Director of the LGBTQ Center. I’ve been at Brown for almost a year now. I started back in December of 2019 and it’s been quite the journey since then, but I’m happy to be at Brown and blown away by the support I’ve received from folks in Campus Life and equally as blown away at the connections I’ve been able to make with students, staff, and faculty across the university. 

Working at the LGBTQ Center, my work focuses on supporting and advocating on the behalf of LGBTQ+ undergraduate and graduate students, as well as staff and faculty with thoughtful programming and community outreach that strikes a balance between conscious-raising around LGBTQ+ issues, intracommunity conversations that expand our current understandings of gender and sexuality, and what it means to build healthy intentional and intersectional community. 

As Assistant Director, so much of what I do is student-facing. I’m responsible for supervising our six student staff members, maintaining connections with LGBTQ Student groups, collaborating with campus partners, assessing student needs, and implementing most of our programming from graduate student meet and greets and Coming Out Day Celebrations to community discussions about queerness and intimacy and poetry workshops that address the experiences of queer and trans artists.

What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

I’m still building here at Brown and working towards even more exciting programs and offerings than the center was able to offer in Spring 2020, but two things come to mind!

The first is the efforts we’ve made towards building an online community with students. In the spring, I started an Instagram account for the center (check us out on ig: @the.lgbtq.center) and we’ve managed to reach over 300 followers in six months, which isn’t pretty bad considering this is our first rodeo! We just started a campaign where each of our student staff members introduces themselves and a topic that’s special to them like queer environmentalism or sexual health and prevention work. We also started a Discord (chat) server where LGBTQ+ community members can hang out with each other digitally! And on Zoom, I’ve been excited to collaborate with the U-FLi Center and the BCSC on a monthly group for students whose identities and lives overlap with each of our missions. 

The second accomplishment that comes to mind is receiving my Ph.D. in Fall 2019 in African and African Diaspora Studies. My research primary looked at Black women and LGBTQ+ folks’ speculative and science fiction and the ways in which Afrofuturist feminist creates critical thought spaces that allow us to imagine liberators futures for all oppressed peoples. 

Name something about you most people don't know.

Something about me that people don’t know? I think it’s pretty hard to follow Michelle Dardashti’s recent reveal about her amazingly talented family singing group, so I won’t even try, but if I had to pick something I’d say that in my last two years at Austin I trained pretty intensively with a Capoeira or Brazilian martial arts group named Capoeira Evoluçao. When it’s safer, I’m looking forward to getting back to playing! Also, while I’ve never been in a traveling band, I used to be president of the madrigal choir in high school and sang and acted all through college! 

If you weren't doing this job, what would you be doing?

You know, I’ve thought long and hard about this, and all I can do I think of my wonderful and very hilarious late mother whose biggest worry was that I would bankrupt her to go to college only to drop out to be a DJ. To that I say, it’s never too late Ma, it’s never too late.