Getting A Jumpstart

By Grace Collins '22, August 24, 2023
Crissi Dalfonzo joins Ithaca College as Director for LGBT Education, Outreach, and Services

When students stop by the Center for LGBT Education, Outreach, and Services this semester, they’ll be greeted by a new friendly face. Ithaca College welcomed Crissi Dalfonzo to her role as Director of the center on August 23. Dalfonzo comes to South Hill from the East Hill, where she spent five years as assistant director of the LGBT Resource Center at Cornell University. She succeeds Luca Maurer, the founding director of the Center for LGBT Education, Outreach, and Services. After over two decades with the Center, Maurer is now executive director of student equity, inclusion, and belonging in the college’s Center for Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging.

As a queer polyamorous neurodivergent woman, Dalfonzo says she’s excited to share her joy and love for living out loud and hopes to inspire others to embrace their identities unapologetically. She holds a bachelor of fine art degree from the University of Hartford and a master's in higher education with a concentration in social justice from the University of Maine. A lifelong educator, first-generation grad, and self-defined "professional queer," Dalfonzo says she’s delighted to have a career that allows her to spend so much of her life in service to the LGBTQ+ community.

Before she officially began her new role, Dalfonzo took the time to join Maurer and Grace Dosdall, Ithaca College’s inaugural Pride Fellow, for the “Big Gay Scavenger Hunt” Jumpstart program. Jumpstart programming allows first-year Ithaca College students the chance to move to campus early, explore the local community, learn about resources on campus, and meet new friends.

Big Gay Scavenger Hunt (BGSH) lets students explore Ithaca’s LGBTQ history and culture, all while becoming more familiar with downtown resources and points of interest. Participants broke into teams and explored the Ithaca Commons on a quest to find some of the city’s LGBTQ landmarks.

IC News connected with Crissi to learn more about her Jumpstart experience and her goals for the LGBT Center during the 2023-24 academic year.

IC News: Congratulations on your new role as Director of the Center for LGBT Education, Outreach & Services! Why did you want to join the Ithaca College community?

Crissi Dalfonzo: Before I moved to Ithaca and Cornell, I primarily worked for smaller schools. As I began to think about working at IC, I was reminded how much I love the community and the connectedness that’s inherent in smaller institutions. Every step of the way in my interview process, IC staff members raved about their colleagues and students. Add to that the clear commitment that IC has to diversity in general, and especially LGBTQ+ inclusion, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up!

You'll be just the second person to direct the Center, succeeding founding director Luca Maurer. What does it mean to you to be stepping into this role?

CD: I am beyond honored that Luca has entrusted me with the Center he built. I’ve collaborated with him over the years in my previous role, and deeply respect his work. The opportunity to build on the amazing foundation he created is another one of the things that drew me to IC. I am so excited that he is still at IC and can act as a sounding board and source of Center history as we forge a new path.

Before you had even officially started in your new role, you joined members of the incoming Class of 2027 for the Big Gay Scavenger Hunt Jumpstart program. Why was it important to you to do this?

CD: I wanted to get a jumpstart myself! In almost every role I’ve held in higher education, I’ve started after classes, and I’ve spent the entire first semester playing catch up. Since I’m coming from nearby, I had the ability to spend some time on campus and with students to get acclimated before I officially start work. I feel like I have a better sense of the Center and at least a few of our incoming students, so I won’t feel like I’m entirely starting from square one.

IC: What were your takeaways from the event?

CD: It was a really fun day. We have some amazing student leaders who made the day the success it was. I am beyond grateful that Grace was able to work with us for the day; she and Luca built a fantastic program, and I would have been lost without her! One big takeaway is the value of flexibility. We had a lovely plan for the day that involved a lot of time outside, and it ended up being a very gloomy day. We made some quick schedule adjustments to bring activities during the rainiest part of the day inside and were still able to have a fantastic Jumpstart. I’m looking forward to getting to know these and the rest of our students better as I join campus.

IC: What are you looking forward to once you officially begin your position? What are your goals for the center?

CD: I’m looking forward to settling into the new space. I love that the Center is in such an accessible space and am looking forward to spending time getting to know the students who frequent our space. I plan to spend a lot of my first year observing and assessing what is already in place. The Center has been in existence for over 20 years now, so it’s important to me to take the time to see why programs and processes are built the way they are before I dive in to make changes. The main things I want to assess are our programming and educational offerings. These are two subjects close to my heart, and I can’t wait to take what we have and put my own spin on it. Once I have a sense of what will best serve our students, I plan to build and refine structures, programs, and education that can support their growth and development.