Abigail M. Francis
Director of LBGT Services in Student Development and Support
41st Annual MLK Leadership Award
Abigail M. Francis, Director of LBGT Services in Student Development and Support, was honored with a staff MLK Leadership Award for her pioneering work with the LGBT and Black Lives Matter community at MIT, and her continued efforts to foster diversity and inclusion on campus.
Suppose a support group meeting for lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgendered students is posted and nobody came. Francis had that experience when she was a college sophomore, and it's one she hopes no one seeking support in the Institute community will ever encounter.
"I still remember drawing up the courage to attend that meeting. When no one showed up, I was devastated. How much easier it would have been to face the world with the resources already offered at MIT," she said.
In 2005, she became MIT's first program coordinator for LBGT services, resources and outreach; at the time, there were only 193 LBGT coordinators nationwide. Since then, her goal to expand the Institute's current resources to "create an environment where LBGT students and faculty can have a more positive living and learning environment" has come to fruition.
Step one in her twofold strategy was to establish a microcosm of the safe and welcoming environment she envisioned for the wider community.
[rainbow-lounge] Today, the Rainbow Lounge in Walker Memorial (W50-005) serves as a meeting space and support network for all LBGT related activities, programs, and services at MIT. It is home to MIT’s several LBGT student groups and includes a library and a cozy reading space. The lounge offers weekly office hours, group meetings, movie nights, discussions, guest speakers, study breaks, and a great place to hang out and meet new people. Connected to the lounge are two private offices (one for Francis, one for a graduate assistant) and a smaller library/screening room. The area has phone and Internet access so students can work there easily.