UT community plans PRIDE Pop-Up Institute coming to Austin in June

Noah Rose

Researchers, students and community members met on Friday to plan UT’s PRIDE Health Pop-Up Institute, a showcase that will take place throughout the month of June.

The PRIDE Pop-Up Institute will feature renowned speakers, workshops and community-centered events, with the goal of drawing community members to the events, according to the Office of the Vice President’s website. The Pop-Up is hoping that networking across the academic environment and Austin community will stimulate new ideas for research in LGBTQ areas, according to the website.

Organizers hope to have several events take place each week, including brunches, workshops and community engagements, such as open mic nights. Topics for these events will encompass substance abuse, mental health and sexual health, said Aliza Norwood, Pop-Up Institute leader.

Norwood said sexual and gender diverse people are an underserved population in central Texas.

“I really want to be clear that we infuse health equity — looking at disparities along racial, gender, age — to ask novel research questions and develop community-led interventions,” Norwood said. “(I’m also) hoping to create a gender-affirming clinic here at UT.” 

Both UT faculty and students participated in the kickoff meeting. Several of the most popular ideas students proposed during the event included open mic nights and a story writing contest open to the Austin community.

Several researchers said they hoped to see specific workshops on topics including stigma, intersectionality, substance abuse harm reduction and how to deal with perceived perpetrators, such as police. 

Norwood said it is important to change the conversation around substance abuse because the discussion is polarized. 

Shilpa Rajagopal, a biology and marketing junior, said she decided to attend the kickoff because of its relevance to her research. 

“I’m working with a team of students to look at South Asian LGBTQ health needs,” Rajagopal said. “This seemed like an interesting opportunity to understand the major issues that are being discussed here in Austin.” 

Rajagopal said she came to learn from the researchers and likes how the researchers are taking initiative towards addressing the health disparities in Austin. 

“I’m just here to learn and kind of absorb from all these researchers,” Rajagopal said.

Nima Rahman, a neuroscience and Plan II junior, said she was inspired by this kickoff event. 

“The coolest thing about this was that it was really open to anybody,” said Rahman. “It felt really interdisciplinary.”