LGBTQ Student Center director receives national community service award

LGBTQ Student Center director receives national community service award

Cindy Brown (left), director of Lamba Living, presents Gisela Vega with the 2019 Eddy McIntyre Community Service Award. Photo: Sergio Camero/National LGBTQ Task Force
By Mike Piacentino

Cindy Brown (left), director of Lamba Living, presents Gisela Vega with the 2019 Eddy McIntyre Community Service Award. Photo: Sergio Camero/National LGBTQ Task Force

LGBTQ Student Center director receives national community service award

By Mike Piacentino
The National LGBTQ Task Force presented Gisela Vega, director of the University of Miami’s LGBTQ Student Center, with the 2019 Eddy McIntyre Community Service Award at its annual Miami gala.

Gisela Vega’s work at the University of Miami is deeply personal. Following an unfortunate incident at her own undergraduate institution, Vega knew that her life’s work would be dedicated to ensuring that nobody would ever experience what she did. Now, finishing her first year as director of the University of Miami’s LGBTQ Student Center, Vega strives to foster a campus environment that is supportive and welcoming to individuals of all of gender identities and expressions.

“All students come to college looking for a community, whether to replace one they left behind at home or to find a new community altogether,” Vega said. “My role on campus is to gain support and buy-in from across the institution to ensure that all members of our UM ‘familia,’ particularly those who identify as LGBTQ+, feel safe and supported."

Due to her commitment to connecting students with community organizations and campus resources as well as her contributions to the South Florida community, the National LGBTQ Task Force bestowed upon Vega its 2019 Eddy McIntyre Community Service Award at the organization’s annual fundraising gala that took place on October 19 at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. The award’s namesake, Eddy McIntyre, was a prominent South Florida lawyer, a founding board member of the Dade Human Rights Foundation, and helped to create the Task Force’s annual gala. The award was named in McIntyre’s honor upon his death in 2007.

“Each year, we honor someone in the South Florida community who has inspired others and serves the community in ways that will be felt for years to come,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force. “Dr. Vega is someone whose work has not only built the strength of our South Florida community for many years, but she has also ensured progress for generations to come by seeing the power and value in LGBTQ students and has invested in their leadership.”

Throughout Vega’s nearly 30-year career in higher education, she has worked in housing and residential life, multicultural affairs, academic affairs, team development, advisement, leadership development, mentoring, and recruitment. She established one of the first LGBT mentoring programs in the nation in the early 1990s and continues to develop internship programs, community involvement opportunities, and volunteer service projects in the Miami community.

“Dr. Vega’s genuine care for students and the well-being of others has had a tremendous impact on our UM community,” said Patricia A. Whitely, vice president for student affairs. “Renowned nationally as a champion for LGBTQ+ students, this award is a testament to her lifelong contributions. I look forward to her continued successes on campus and in the community.”

Vega is a current board member for the Aqua Foundation for Women and has chaired the organization’s scholarship and mentorship programs.  She also serves on the board of trustees for the Point Foundation, the nation’s largest scholarship-granting organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students of merit. Vega also volunteers with numerous community organizations throughout South Florida.

When asked to reflect back on her career and to speak about what the award means to her, Vega said that it affirms her commitment to her work. “What I do matters, is important, and is changing lives.”