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UCF was named one of the most LGBT-friendly colleges in the nation by Campus Pride on Aug. 15, making it the only university in Florida to grace the list.

LGBTQ Services launched in 2011 at UCF, and now it has made waves attracting national attention.

The list does not rank the top 50 in any particular order other than alphabetical.

"We have built a very strong team of support for our LGBTQ+ community," said Maribeth Ehasz, vice president of Student Development and Enrollment Services, in a release. "We have a commitment at the university to actively support and engage our LGBTQ+ students in the UCF experience."

Ehasz credited the university's success to the following: the new SDES Social Justice and Advocacy Department with Edwanna Andrews as the founding director; an LGBTQ Services coordinator within SJA; Pride Commons; assistant vice president of SDES Belinda Boston; and associate vice president of SDES Kerry Welch.

Campus Pride, "a national organization that works to create safer campuses for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students," compiles the list annually using responses to the Campus Pride Index, "a national benchmarking tool which self-assesses LGBT-friendly policies, programs and practices."

To get on the list, a university must achieve five stars overall and must also achieve the highest percentages from eight benchmarks regarding "policy, program and practice," a report from Campus Pride states.

Typically, Campus Pride releases a list of only the top 25 LGBT-friendly colleges and universities, but this is the first year the top 50 have been released.

Earlier this month, the Princeton Review released a list of the top 20 LGBT-friendly and unfriendly universities, with UCF on neither list. Campus Pride's list, however, differs from the Princeton Review'sin that its list is based on "research on policy, program and practice and is conducted 'for and by' LGBT experts in the field of higher education," the report states.

For the third year in a row, approximately 80 percent of the colleges surveyed improved their responses, according to Campus Pride, and the number of southern, religiously affiliated and minority-serving institutions increased this year as well.

"UCF has made strides in the past three years in providing visibility for its LGBT students," said LGBTQ+ Services Coordinator Justin Andrade. "Not only that, but the university also offers support for faculty and staff. It's a huge honor to be recognized, especially for the strides we have made."

The UCF resources geared specifically toward LGBT students include the registered student organization Equal and the UCF Pride Faculty and Staff Association, as well as the Safe Zone workshops and numerous single-occupancy and gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.

"I continue to be surprised at how accepting even the faculty and staff are, from coming to events like Diva Invasion and second chance Prom to being readily available to speak on faculty panels to even having students attend our events as a diversity assignment for extra points in class," said Equal President Brianna Pantoja, a junior psychology major. "The majority of offices on campus have a Safe Zone Ally sticker and if they don't there is almost always a Human Rights Campaign equality sticker on the window."

Other universities on the list include Cornell, Princeton, Rutgers, Stanford and Ohio State.

To see the full list visit campuspride.org.

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