Riley Jelenick speaks at an event
Category: University News

Title: Georgetown Appoints New Leader of LGBTQ Resource Center

In his new role, Jelenick will provide leadership for the Center’s educational events and programs for undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff, promote greater understanding, knowledge and inclusion at Georgetown around LGBTQ+ identity, and foster a network and community of belonging among current students and alumni.  

The LGBTQ Resource Center, which opened in 2008 as the first center of its kind at a Catholic, Jesuit institution in the U.S., offers education, programming and support services to Georgetown students, staff, faculty and alumni of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Guided by Georgetown’s commitment to the dignity and care of each person, the center works to create a safer, more inclusive and welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ community members.

Jelenick speaks at Western Carolina University in December 2019 at the Intercultural Affairs (ICA) Fall Graduation Celebration. He stands behind a podium holding a microphone and wears a gray suit. Behind him is a screen.
Jelenick speaks at Western Carolina University in December 2019 at the Intercultural Affairs Fall Graduation Celebration.

Jelenick previously served as the LGBTQ+ student services coordinator at the University of Dayton, where he planned the university’s inaugural Lavender Ball, created and implemented university-wide educational programming on topics such as sexual orientation, gender identity, intersectionality and inclusive language, and expanded the Catholic university’s ally workshop. During the allyship workshops, Jelenick focused on storytelling, inviting students to share their story and sharing his own story of when he was a transgender college student looking for resources and support.

“I’ve often opened up about my story as a young trans student navigating the world and systems that were not made for me,” he said. “I try to give back to other young queer students like myself who didn’t know there was a human there to support them, who didn’t know that they could feel comfortable as their whole self, exist and belong.”

“I think storytelling is so important. Building empathy for the experiences of queer people is one of the best ways to get the work done, because it humanizes our experiences and allows people to see the human beyond this identity that can seem so foreign and so complex to others.”

Jelenick received his masters in higher education student affairs and his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Western Carolina University. At Georgetown, Jelenick says he plans to lead with vulnerability, increase transparency between university leadership and students, and expand representation for marginalized communities. 

Learn more about Jelenick’s path to supporting LGBTQ+ community members at Catholic universities and his number one goal at Georgetown.

Q&A With Riley Jelenick

What do you want the Georgetown community to know about you?

I’m here to serve all students regardless of gender and sexuality. My job as a professional and also personally is to ensure that all students succeed and walk across the stage at the end of their time at Georgetown.

A lot of times, students who don’t identify as LGBTQ+ will say, well, you are here just for LGBTQ+ students. That is the focus of what I do. But I’m in this work because I care about the well-being of all students, and I want them to succeed. So if that means leaving space for questions and curiosity, if that means connecting them to resources that support them in their academic journey, whatever that thing may be, I’m another human on campus to support them. I just have a tailored focus on supporting LGBTQ+ students.

What drew you to this position at Georgetown?

Jelenick pictured at Fresh Check Day as part of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in October 2022 at the University of Dayton. He wears a gray T-shirt with a LGBTQ+ Pride flag decal on it.
Jelenick pictured at Fresh Check Day, a national mental health promotion and suicide prevention event, in October 2022 at the University of Dayton.

For me, this is passion work. This is my vocation. I want to continue to be in spaces that are historically seen as non-welcoming to LGBTQ folks. I’m thinking specifically about religious Catholic campuses.

When I was in my master’s program, one of my first internships was at Xavier University. It focused on Jesuit values. I remember finding something so impactful about the values that I had never understood as a non-Catholic. I had never understood the vastness of God and the open-mindedness and care that the Jesuit tradition and values allow. It made me sit back and think, Why am I not looking in these [religious] spaces to assist students who are thinking that they’re not welcome, that they don’t belong?

But once I got to those Catholic Marianist, Catholic Jesuit spaces, I found so many people who were willing to support me as a queer person, to support colleagues who may identify as queer, to support students. I would not want to work anywhere other than a private Catholic or Jesuit or Marianist institution, because the values and the mission and vision of the university are so strong.

Also, knowing the importance of this work at Georgetown specifically — being the first Catholic, Jesuit school to have this position, to have this conversation, to be so open about this to the world, to the nation, to students. I thought, if I can make this [role] happen, and they will have me, this will be a dream come true. I can definitely say that is what’s happening.

A group of colleagues in the Office of Office of Student Equity & Inclusion leadership team stand together and pose for a picture at Georgetown.
Georgetown’s Office of Student Equity & Inclusion leadership team, including the Center for Multicultural Equity & Access, the Community Scholars Program, the Disability Cultural Initiative, the LGBTQ Resource Center and the Women’s Center.

What do you want students to know about the LGBTQ Center?

I want folks to know who and what the Office of Student Equity & Inclusion is, which includes the LGBTQ Center, the Women’s Center, the Disability Cultural Initiative, the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, as well as the Community Scholars Program.

This summer, we will be moving into one space in New South. I think it’s important to address how intersectionality is at the center of our work. We have multiple students on campus who fall under all of our centers in terms of their identities. For example, a queer student of color doesn’t get to choose their queerness  one day and their racial or ethnic identity the next – same thing with regards to disability and gender. So to move to all be together in one space will allow students to show up as their whole selves and allow us continue to do this work collectively in being student-centered.

What do you hope to accomplish in your role?

I think the biggest goal I have personally and professionally is to continue to energize, synergize and normalize this work on a Catholic, Jesuit campus.

I want to normalize the conversation of identity, of queerness on campus, and lean into the joy that this community brings to our campus. The liveliness. The history. I want people to feel the energy and the belonging on our campus before they ever arrive.

“I want people to feel the energy and the belonging on our campus before they ever arrive.”

Riley Jelenick, associate director of the LGBTQ Resource Center

When they get here, we need to ensure that they’re experiencing it. It’s not something that we sold to them. It’s a reality. I am seeing that, and I know that will happen with this team. We all want to reimagine a new direction of holistic student support.

I would also love for folks to continue to reimagine and dream about the LGBTQ Center’s role. What do we think about the way things are on campus now in regards to LGBTQ identity? Where do we want it to be? Where should we be as a Catholic, Jesuit institution that has been pivotal to this conversation, and at the forefront of that conversation?

In the meantime, stop by the center to hang out, bring dreams and ideas, or just say hi.

A headshot of Riley Jelenick, the new director of Georgetown's LGBTQ Resource Center. Riley wears a suit with a button-up shirt and gray tie. He smiles at the camera in front of a green lawn.

Quick Facts:

Pronouns: He, him, his

What he’s looking forward to as a new DC resident: I would love to experience more of the national parks and museums. Coming from the Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains…I’m definitely at my best when I’m outside. I want to experience more of the local art and music scene that DC has to offer as well. 

Favorite sports: I’ve been an athletic person for most of my life. I played basketball, roller hockey, soccer. I’m into any kind of sport — pickleball, kickball, putt-putt golf, pool, playing darts — anything with a little light competition.

Favorite coffee shop: I’ve been a fan of a shaken espresso or an iced espresso lately. I’ve heard great things about the Corps. I think as we move to New South, the location in the Healey Family Student Center may become where I’m a frequent flyer. You can’t beat the vibes in a coffee shop.

The LGBTQ Center is next hosting Lavender Graduation on April 27. Register here.