Let's Talk UNLV

"On this episode of Let’s Talk UNLV hosts Dr. Tanya Crabb and Dr. Keith Rogers are joined by Basic Needs Coordinator, Ash Xander Quinn. Ash is a passionate advocate for service and being a resource for those in their community. Ash shares more about Service Learning and Leadership's Take What You Need (TWYN) event, including the resources available at the event, the history, how these events have impacted students and more. Tune in to learn more and spread the word about the TWYN Events taking place September 22, October 17th and November 15th!"

Ash Xander Quinn serves as the Program Coordinator for the Hope Resources Program at UNLV - a basic needs initiative within the office of Service Learning and Leadership. As a UNLV alum who obtained their Bachelors in Psychology and Masters in Social Work, Ash has served in various roles across campus such as a Resident Assistant in Housing, staff in the Student Diversity office, and a member of the student LGBTQ+ group Spectrum. Ash now serves as Spectrum's Faculty Advisor and is on the Executive Leadership Team for QUNLV, the LGBTQ+ Faculty/Staff Alliance. Ash is a representative for QUNLV on the President's Advisory Council and in conjunction with his basic needs support, he regularly works with students in the LGBTQ+ community to provide support and advocacy. 

What is Let's Talk UNLV?

Rebels, tune in to 'Let's Talk UNLV' with Dr. Tanya Crabb and Dr. Sammie Scales. Your express pass to everything UNLV — campus highlights, programs, and the latest buzz. Join us weekly as we chat with student leaders, administrators, and faculty, diving into the core of what makes us Rebels.

The program brings guests from different areas of UNLV every week to discuss campus highlights, programs and services, research interests that are essential to being a Rebel. Let’s Talk UNLV places its emphasis on connecting with student leaders who represent the voice of students on our campus. Guests also include administrators, faculty and staff responsible for upholding the mission of the university, which is teaching, research and scholarship.

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Unknown Speaker 0:26
All right. Welcome to another segment of less talk UNLV. On our podcast, you will co host Keith and Dr. Crab.

Unknown Speaker 0:34
Crab. What did you do this weekend? You know, it's what I didn't do. That's that's the problem. I really wanted to go skating this weekend. And I just didn't make it out there. And I love love, love to skate. So what I did this weekend was read some studying some soul reflection, kind of wave, some affirmation, some fake yoga. I say fake yoga, because I have no real idea what I'm doing.

Unknown Speaker 1:00
So well, you know, you got to talk a little bit more about the skating fetish. You got

Unknown Speaker 1:06
that how did you get into skating? When I was around 13 years old, I think I got my first set of skates, which I was not allowed to wear unless I would wear pants. It sounds weird. But I love skirts. Because you know, when you twirl you feel those skating things. So the rule was in order to get my skates and wear my skates I had to agree to put on at least shorts underneath my skirts. And I put it away for a while. And then I picked it back up at dantata 40.

Unknown Speaker 1:33
So now you sort of, you know doing a fantasy skating or you risk a taker risk averse, like what's your skating style? I'm trying not to kill myself or safety first right skating style. I just recently learned how to use my brakes. They were brand new up until this point, but I like to dance when I skate. All right, it's my jam. I see. See, I'm sort of the Evil Knievel skater. Ah. So like we we were we use skates as sort of a means for jumping ramps. And oh, yeah, so we didn't we weren't the dancing and it was more so let's see who can be the most scarier on the skates. So like if there was a male roller derby team, that would be your job. What Yeah, with no pads, no pads, no helmet. Living Life on the Edge. Oh, yes. My mom did not care for it.

Unknown Speaker 2:25
So she just adopted the mantra.

Unknown Speaker 2:28
Don't come home crying. Okay. And I'm not taking you to the hospital. If you break something. You broke it, you bought it.

Unknown Speaker 2:35
But yeah, my weekend was pretty chill too. So I ended up just watching some football which I love, love, love, love. So glad Football season is back. And so just watch as many games as I could Nice.

Unknown Speaker 2:48
With all the constant interruptions from my little one. So he's he's always competing for attention. So Dad, you cannot watch football and peace do they play? Not football, but soccer. Okay.

Unknown Speaker 3:02
Hey, just to transition to our segment for today. So today we're going to be talking about take what you need from the basic needs pantry work. So we have our guest today, Ash, Zander Quinn, who is the interim hope and basic needs coordinator in service learning and leadership. Ash, welcome to the podcast. Welcome. Thank you for having me. So ask Could you tell us a little bit about your origin story in terms of how you came to UNLV and into the position that you're in?

Unknown Speaker 3:32
Yes, so I am an alum of UNLV. I did my undergraduate in psychology back in the day. And then after a break, I came back to get my master's degree in social work. And throughout my time, in undergrad and graduate work, I've been very involved at the university with the Center for Social Justice, student diversity, social justice. And even as a graduate assistant, I was doing work with the hope Scholars Program, which really led me to the position I am in now doing this basic needs coordinator work with service learning and leadership.

Unknown Speaker 4:11
And it just really compiled my journey with the passion that I have for

Unknown Speaker 4:17
for you know, higher ed and combining that with that social work passion, you know, the social justice, advocacy and really providing much needed support to underrepresented minoritized and in need communities.

Unknown Speaker 4:35
Sounds like a sounds like a wonderful program. So

Unknown Speaker 4:39
in terms of the program itself, so what has been the reception how sex successful has this program been? Have you seen a great need or how's that been going?

Unknown Speaker 4:51
Absolutely. So I'm still fairly new to the program, but knowing the history of it, it really began

Unknown Speaker 5:00
It kind of caught on in housing where, you know, it came to the attention of the university and some higher ups in that area that students weren't very answering some housing insecurities, basic needs, insecurities, feed insecurities, etc, that really needed to be addressed. And they really needed that support. So that's where the hope Scholars Program stepped in. So part of that program is a scholarship program where we support students who are experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity, to throughout their academic career we provide them with,

Unknown Speaker 5:38
with financial aid, for housing for food for textbooks, and some of those pieces that we work closely with donors to do. But another piece of that which I work on, is that basic needs component that goes out a bit more to the general UNLV community. So not just students, but also recognizing that faculty and staff are impacted by these issues as well. And in fall 21, the campus did a basic needs survey that really indicated I believe they got over 4000 responses for that survey. And I believe it indicated that one in two responders indicated basic needs and security, whether that was food, housing, transportation, technology, you know, one of or just access to basic need items in general. So I think that really demonstrated what a huge issue, this is on our campus, that probably isn't being talked about enough. And that what we really want to do is fill in those gaps, provide that support where needed. And just since the semester has started, I have worked with about five to 10 students one on one to connect them with some resources. And that just in the past few weeks. And then ash, I know, you know, speaking of this work, could you talk a little bit about the events that are coming up this fall?

Unknown Speaker 7:02
Yes, so we have what we call a basic needs closet within our office. So we of course work with students one on one, if they come to our attention, or if they contact us needing to access items,

Unknown Speaker 7:15
you know, we can definitely work with them and provide them with additional resources, depending on their situation. But we do have some pop up events. And those are called take what you need. So we have one every month this semester and going into the spring as well. So our first one is going to be next week, Thursday, September 22. These are all going to be hosted in Student Union room 208, a and be from 10am to 3pm. And essentially what this event is, is we put all of the donated items that we have, which is over, I want to say over 30 boxes worth of things so much stuff,

Unknown Speaker 7:56
clothing, school supplies, hygiene products,

Unknown Speaker 8:01
even cleaning supplies, linen, things of that nature, we put all of that out for UNLV community members of students, faculty staff, to get come through the event, kind of treat it like shopping, but without the checkout line, and just take whatever items that they need without shame and without that, that barrier that we often feel.

Unknown Speaker 8:24
I love that, that you're trying to remove the stigma, you know, so one of the, as you talk about this, take what you need event, there are certain things that are striking to me. One of it is that this this invisibility of people and their needs, especially in the era of COVID. And recovering from COVID, there were a lot of different financial hits that people took that are just not discussed. So I love that there's an opportunity to get their needs met in a way that's not shaming and stigmatizing. And that also helps them to build community and know where the resources are. But my question for you is how can how can we contribute? How can students contribute to the opportunities you know, to give and what sort of items would you like to have donated for this particular event?

Unknown Speaker 9:08
Yeah, that is a great question. So we love taking donations all throughout the year. And those can be delivered to Student Union 316 front desk, items that we see that we really need to support our students lately, I've noticed that we need more hygiene products that are a bit more specific to do different ethnicities, as opposed to some of what we've been getting in that has been a bit limited. So some more multicultural products. Some more gently used or if possible, new, you know whatever people want to donate clothing that is in a wider range of sizes. And also available to get more than just one gender. We do get traditionally women's clothing donated to us so it would be great to have an expansion there.

Unknown Speaker 10:00
Are and then even just some more toiletry items such as tissue paper, just some of those things that you know that students would need to get them through the night, right?

Unknown Speaker 10:11
Things of that nature we could always use, and we do have an Amazon wishlist. I think so far since we blogged it, we've gotten over $2,000 worth of donations from the Amazon wishlist alone, which has been amazing to see so much support from the community. And we try to update that with the things that we know we don't really have in stock that

Unknown Speaker 10:34
the campus community community has indicated as being really highly needed.

Unknown Speaker 10:39
And Deanna, you mentioned the Amazon wishlist and that there are still some gaps or unmet need in certain areas that you just described. Could you sort of share with our listeners and students or organizations? How do they access the Amazon wishlist Ando? How do they contact you if they wish to make donations?

Unknown Speaker 11:01
Yeah, so the best way to kind of follow our events and our needs would be social media, we'll post the link to the wishlist, we're working on putting together a flyer that really indicates some of the highly needed item. This week, as we've been prepping for next week's event, we've been going through our storage of donations and getting that feel of what's missing. And what do we need to supplement that will really get that idea at next week's event, once we have some feedback from those who attend. So that will be going on the Service Learning and Leadership, social media, on Instagram, that would be UNLV FLL.

Unknown Speaker 11:42
And we'll have the link there. Or you can always come to the Student Union 316 front desk to ask, and you can ask for me and I would love to point people into the right direction. You can also contact me through my UNLV email address, which is ash.quinn@unlv.edu.

Unknown Speaker 12:02
It's interesting to think that, you know, as we think about students going through college, we think about a lot of the needs that they have, but they're primarily academic, you know, and very little thought is often given to the fact that if you're hungry, you don't learn well. If you can't pay your bills, you don't learn well that these all all these things contribute to academic success. So I'm really grateful to your organization for addressing those lower level, you know that Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs kind of thing? Where were the things that that would prevent them from being successful, are now addressed in a way that's respectful and kind? And also D stigmatizing? Are there other resources and opportunities available to students struggling with basic needs that students may be need to be aware of?

Unknown Speaker 12:50
Well, first and foremost, I think students are always welcome to just come in, talk with myself and my colleagues, if they are experiencing a situation, we work very closely with different support systems on campus, to ensure that if there's any resources that we can't provide that we can connect them with those resources very quickly. So for example, we work closely with the food pantry, for those who have food insecurities, we do have some food at our events, but it's definitely limited compared to the wonderful stocks that they have over there. We work closely with the care center with cap, you know, just a lot of those support systems. So if they're ever unsure where to go, I think it's really important to know that we do work very closely together, and that we will, you know, make sure that we find solutions to the situation that they're facing.

Unknown Speaker 13:42
And then as I'm imagining, you know, to sort of plan and move all these items around for these different pop up events, that it does take a lot of manpower or human capital do so do you all do this as a team? Or do you all solicit for volunteers to come in and help with this work? Organizing moving things breaking down packaging, moving things back? If so, how can those who are interested in assisting do so?

Unknown Speaker 14:13
Absolutely. So we have pretty much done it internally. We did recently hired graduate assistant who has been helping myself and others with this work, but it has mostly just been asked same for day of the event with setup and breakdown. We do. We are open to having volunteers especially at the event

Unknown Speaker 14:35
to help with setup and cleanup.

Unknown Speaker 14:38
We just tried to make sure that during the event itself, we keep it pretty low on staff. We want to make sure that we're keeping the environment as open and welcoming as possible and having too many students working the space might make those trying to access the space and feel uncomfortable. So if anybody's ever interested in volunteering and helping out in those regards

Unknown Speaker 15:00
or they can definitely reach out to our office to express that interest. And we can see where we could use the help, we're still navigating the expansion of this angle COVID definitely took a hit on what we're able to do when things were mostly virtual, and also recognizing how needs have changed in the period that we're in now. So that's something that we're still addressing. But I'm, I'm sure we would never turn away any assistance.

Unknown Speaker 15:28
You know, so funny, as you were talking about the interconnectedness of the support system, I think it's really important for students to know and I'm glad that you mentioned that, that there are various points of entry, that, that if you that there are various places and spaces in the university, where if you express a need, we will also help you provide resources. And the fact that you're working with these different communities and these different departments within the university then allows them to be a better

Unknown Speaker 15:56
transition point for students that have needs. So absolutely. And not just in the university, either we have contacts in the community as well. So if their situation is beyond the scope of what we can do at a university level, we do have connections with nonprofits and other groups in the community that we can point them in the direction of

Unknown Speaker 16:18
and then ask, could you speak to? Like, what are some of the feedback or responses that you receive from some of the students or staff who come and sort of have access to these items?

Unknown Speaker 16:33
So we do,

Unknown Speaker 16:35
we do see a lot of gratitude, I think that the biggest thing is that, you know, just people are surprised that this is an option for them, and have expressed that this has really helped them and help their families. Also recognizing that a lot of these people going through our events, you know, they have support systems, or people who rely on them to being able to even support themselves, or, you know, I've seen people come through the event and grab multiple bags that would help family members. And, you know, I, I just love seeing how they say that this really helped them get through, I've heard many students say that they were in a position where they often chose to pay their tuition overpaying for their basic needs. And that this really helped them to continue being in school because otherwise they didn't have a lot of options, which is an unfortunate reality. And, again, that's why I think just having these conversations is so important. But overall, it's been a lot of gratitude. And it's been so great interfacing and communicating with those who attend our events. I love hearing their stories, and I love seeing how much it supports them.

Unknown Speaker 17:46
You know, as I as I look through your bio, it seems like this is a bit of a passion project for you. You know, it sounds like this is you're well suited to this. So how did you come to, to to be so involved in these sorts of things? I know, you talked about how you came here in terms of the university, but as your own human person, you know, it sounds like this is something that's meaningful for you on a multiple levels. Ken, would you like to share a little bit about your background in terms of this kind of work?

Unknown Speaker 18:15
Yeah, so I have been impacted by a lot of these barriers that I see students and other staff members impacted by and, you know, this work really spoke to me, largely because of that, because I've experienced that system. As somebody who is in the LGBTQ plus community, as somebody who came up from a home that was very poor and often struggling, there were times that we struggled with food or struggled with getting our basic needs, even as I was going into college. Even as I was an undergrad, there were positions where I wasn't sure what my housing situation was going to look like. And I really understand firsthand what that stress feels like, and not knowing where to go. And who could help me. I also know the experience of getting the runaround and meeting a lot of debt. And in that situation, I wouldn't wish on anyone.

Unknown Speaker 19:09
And I've just been so thankful to have the

Unknown Speaker 19:13
experience to be on the other hand of providing that support and seeing the work that has been done before I even got here in the in the Canvas community to address these issues. So I think that's kind of where my story is with, with my passion for this type of work.

Unknown Speaker 19:32
And did I know in your bio, you also talked a little bit about sort of this housing first model and how they guide your approach to your work. Could you talk a little bit about how that's influenced how you sort of manage and navigate through this work?

Unknown Speaker 19:48
Yes, so when I was going through my master's degree for social work, I had the wonderful opportunity to do my practicum which is essentially an internship with the Nova

Unknown Speaker 20:00
had a homeless alliance.

Unknown Speaker 20:02
And while I was doing that work, I saw firsthand what

Unknown Speaker 20:07
what serving the housing insecure population, especially in Las Vegas looks like. And Housing First is an approach that really centers housing as a basic human right. Previously to the housing first model, a lot of models that shelters or organizations have utilized has been one that had a lot of requirements for people to access the care and resources that they needed, especially when it comes to mental health or sobriety. So they would often be required to go through some treatment plans before they can access housing. So that's what that approach really looks like. And I really want to utilize that as a framework for a lot of the work that I do as well, just knowing that, you know, oftentimes you can't better yourself, or you can't work on some of those other needs, or some of those other situations, until you have access to stable housing and to, you know, just your basic needs. Right. So that's something that, you know, I hope that everyone keeps in mind when approaching this type of issue. It makes a lot of sense. How do you focus on your mental health? When your safety is in jeopardy? How do you concentrate on the things that you need to do when you don't even have food? You know, I, as I listened to you talk, and I'm really grateful for the thoughtfulness in which this program is designed in order to make it more accessible for students. But I wonder what are some of the barriers that you've seen to students actually seeking out the services that you offer?

Unknown Speaker 21:41
I think the biggest one that we've been having a lot of conversations about has been that frame of mind that they don't feel empowered enough to utilize these resources. Oftentimes, there's that mindset of, oh, I need this, but somebody else needs it more, I don't need it that badly. So I can, I could hold off and let somebody else get this.

Unknown Speaker 22:02
And I think that's a really hard barrier to break. I think that's why we're really approaching this with, you know, a lot of us have been in these situations as well. And it has helped us a lot, to really try to empower others to show them that, you know, they have every right to come and get these resources they are for them, not going to limit others. And if we are seeing the need grow, then we'll work really hard to grow to meet that need as we go along. And then I know earlier, you mentioned about sort of the basic needs survey and sort of bringing more attention to some of the findings there. Could you speak to some of the some of the themes that emerged from you know, reviewing the survey results?

Unknown Speaker 22:47
Yes. So one of the themes that I know you both kind of touched on, as well has been just the impact that, you know, experiencing basic needs and insecurity have on different areas of your life, not just academics, but your mental health, and,

Unknown Speaker 23:07
you know, just overall well being. So I think that was one of the biggest things. And I think that's really important for us to keep in mind. That's why I think it's so important to adopt that.

Unknown Speaker 23:19
That model of really centering the types of needs first. So looking at the survey, which I do want to be transparent that I wasn't involved in the administration of the survey. So definitely want to put the work out to those who were involved. I know, some of them have left the university since then. But

Unknown Speaker 23:40
they did an amazing job with this.

Unknown Speaker 23:44
Some of the things

Unknown Speaker 23:47
that it looked at was housing, food, childcare, transportation, digital access, mental health services.

Unknown Speaker 23:55
And they have asked, you know, do barriers related to any of these hinder your performance in your classes, or your overall progress at UNLV? And it seems like the majority of these areas, especially housing and food, indicated very high barriers for academic success.

Unknown Speaker 24:17
Those are, I think, at the university, as we're talking about, you know, retention rates and, you know, getting students to the point of graduation, I think this is an important thing to keep in mind. Absolutely. So I'm curious as someone who's had to navigate the process, you know, I know that it can be difficult, and I'm really grateful that UNLV is making that process a lot simpler for students navigate, but what message would you like to get out there to students or even just community members who are maybe reluctant or reticent to access your services, either through pride or shame or feeling like they're not deserving of the services? What would you like to communicate to them?

Unknown Speaker 25:02
I would definitely like to say that again, especially as somebody who's been in that situation or similar situation before, that, it really does make a difference. And I know what it feels like to feel as though your situation isn't as dire enough. But overall, your well being is incredibly important. And I just think that

Unknown Speaker 25:28
just feeling empowered and knowing that your self advocacy and that your needs come first, no matter what you feel like they compare to to others. If you think it's an issue at all, then it is an issue. And it should be addressed. And we are here to help you.

Unknown Speaker 25:46
So wonderful message.

Unknown Speaker 25:48
Didn't ask we'll get you out of here on this last question. Is there anything that you would like to share that, that we that you wish we would have asked or

Unknown Speaker 26:00
for our listeners, I think I'm just really grateful to be here and getting the word out about our events, I really hope to see a good turnout, not in the sense that I hope that people are struggling with this, but in the sense that I want to shed some light on this issue. And, you know, I think it'd be wonderful for others to feel empowered, and

Unknown Speaker 26:23
you know, kind of just go from there. So again, our events, our our first event is going to be next week, the 22nd from 10 to three and Student Union room 208. And I just, I'm really excited to thank you all so much for having me. grateful to have you on board. Thank you so much for sharing this really important information for our students, especially as you know, inflation. And people are still recovering from unemployment and COVID. And everything else like that. I think this sort of information is crucial, especially as it helps people to secure their future.

Unknown Speaker 26:57
Yes, and I wholeheartedly agree. And certainly we, on behalf of the university, we thank you for you know, your passion for this work and sort of leading this work and we know that it's making a difference in the lives of so many students so and we hope that you continue to receive the support and contributions that that are needed to move this work forward.

Unknown Speaker 27:21
All right. Thank you, Ash. Thank you.

Unknown Speaker 27:27
For more or less talk UNLV. Be sure to follow us on social media where you can get the latest updates on the show plus great behind the scenes content. We're on Facebook and let's talk about the podcast Twitter, let's talk UNLV and Instagram and let's talk UNLV

Transcribed by https://otter.ai