Spotlight on Staff: Queer Resource Center Director Sharon Chia Claros

By: Katie Clelland ’21

The Claremont Colleges community recently welcomed Sharon Chia Claros (she/her/hers) as the new assistant dean and director of the Queer Resource Center (QRC). Claros holds a bachelor’s degree in human development and a master’s degree in college student personnel, and she is currently pursuing her EdD in educational leadership. Claros previously served as the associate director for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Michigan State University. She also worked at University of California, Los Angeles for seven years, where she oversaw the Gender, Sexuality & Society Living Learning Community. The Scripps Office of Marketing and Communications recently interviewed Claros to hear about her new role and upcoming plans.

Marketing and Communications: How did you become interested in human development?

Sharon Claros: My upbringing inspired a lot of my interest. I am an immigrant from the Philippines, so after coming to the US, I developed an interest in learning more about the similarities and differences between Filipino culture and US culture. For example, in the Philippines, LGBTQIA+ communities and identities were never really talked about. Growing up bi-culturally and learning to honor both cultures while also finding my own identity was an experience I wanted to be able to guide others through. So, I’ve always been interested in cognitive and behavioral progressions and actions in the world as they relate to various social identities. My college path allowed me to explore my identity outside of familial expectations, and I studied the development of college students and how to support their holistic success. College plays a substantial role in an individual’s journey to authenticity. Being a part of that journey is truly a gift.

MC: What aspects of The Claremont Colleges community interested you?

SC: The opportunities to connect across a broader 7C community were intriguing. The Claremont Colleges are unique because each school has its own history, identity, and individual culture, but there is also a unified community across the colleges. I hope to align my work in collaboration with each college’s needs, working together to make the environment more inclusive and affirming for queer and trans students across the 7Cs.

MC: What are your plans and goals for the Queer Resource Center?

SC: I truly believe justice work starts with building relationships across our diverse communities and working collaboratively to create positive change. I want to get to know what community members need from the QRC. Implementing queer- and trans-inclusive practices may look different for each college, and that is why it will really be important for the QRC to build partnerships with students, faculty, staff, and alumni across the 7Cs. I also want to reach out to non-LGBTQIA+ members to learn more about how the QRC can serve their needs so that they can strengthen their allyship. Lastly, as we continue to strive for racial, queer, and trans justice and support other civil rights movements, we must also remember to find ways to be in community with each other and create moments of joy and love. Audre Lorde once said, “If they cannot love and resist at the same time, they probably will not survive.” As a community, we must embrace the both/and; as we strive for justice in intersectional ways, we must also practice love and joy so that our work towards justice can be sustained.

MC: How have you been adjusting your plans for the virtual community? What aspects of community-building during the pandemic have been particularly challenging?

SC: I am mindful of inclusion as some students may not be able to be on Zoom as easily as attending an in-person event on campus. I am focusing on providing accessible resources for the community, such as transforming our past events to be available asynchronously and synchronously. The QRC also has amazing student associates who are thinking about ways to engage virtually with the community. We hope to create events that allow students to feel connected to the colleges and queer spaces where they can feel validated and affirmed, especially if their current living situation is not as affirming. We recently offered a queer narratives story circle and will soon host a collaborative “Color Me Queer” event with Patty Gonzalez from Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services. Lastly, one of our student associates is planning a live virtual Dollhouse Cabaret that honors and lifts up transgender artists and creatives, which will take place during November’s Transgender Awareness/Empowerment Week.

MC: How do you plan to foster a safe environment and interactive community in a virtual environment?

SC: The QRC currently has drop-in hours for the different colleges to connect one-on-one with students and to build relationships and provide feedback. We are also working on bringing more content to our social media pages and increasing our visibility through Instagram and Facebook engagement. The QRC will also start hosting queer watch parties with virtual screenings of queer- and trans-centered films. Our graduate assistant is working on encouraging and empowering students to attend the virtual LGBTQIA+ Models of Pride conference, which will occur in mid-November.

MC: What are you most excited about for this new position?

SC: I am eager to learn about and from the community and feel the vibrancy of the 7C community. Throughout my lifetime people have made a huge impact on who I am and how I view the world, so it is very enriching to work with others and learn from them.

MC: What is a fun fact about you?

SC: I am a huge dog person and have two dogs at home. One is named Chico after the fruit in the Philippines. I am also a self-proclaimed home chef. I love to cook and experiment—my specialty is in Filipino dishes. Cooking at home was a big part of my childhood, and it brought me a lot of joy to cook with my mama. Now, it continues to bring me joy to see people smile when they taste the food I cook for them. Oh, and I also have eight tattoos, one from every place I have lived.