David Austin, communications professor at ARC, is the new Pride Center coordinator

Community is key for Austin – something he will bring with him to the Pride Center


David Austin, new Pride Center coordinator, focuses on community in and outside of the classroom. (Photo by Jaqueline Ruvalcaba)

The Pride Center, a hang-out space centered around LGBTQIA+ identities at American River College, is getting a makeover for the spring of 2023.

David Austin, professor and department chair of communication at ARC, will be leading the way for the space’s post-renovation debut in January 2023 as the Pride Center coordinator. Austin has already enthusiastically delved into his new role and says he looks forward to giving back to his community.

Born and raised in Cupertino, Austin says he experienced the harsh realities of coming out during the ’80s—a time where the queer community faced heavy ostracization and discrimination. He knows first hand what it is like not to feel welcomed in high school or community college.

“I did not have a great experience,” Austin said. “My parents’ house was vandalized. I tried to take a boy to the prom—it did not go well. I ran away and lived on the streets for a year.”

Over the course of 10 years and many hurdles, Austin was able to attain his A.A. in general education and transfer to CSU Los Angeles, where he received a B.A. in communication and minored in journalism and public relations. 

Having come from a broken education, it was not an easy process for Austin.

“I never thought I could do education,” Austin said. “By a very harsh learning curve of failed courses, W’s, and a lot of destruction that I then had to go back and fix, I learned how to do college.”

He also received a master’s degree in speech communication. This last achievement he attributes to one of his professors.

“[She] was very caring and said a lot of very lovely things about my work,” Austin said. “All it took was that and a bit of her pushing me for me to get my master’s.”

He also credits his students for changing his life in ways he didn’t expect. While working as a professor part-time in 2014, Austin was delivering a speech to his students about the importance of setting goals and always looking ahead. 

“What goals do you have?” a student asked. When Austin realized he did not have an answer to this question, he decided to set one for himself and started looking for a full-time teaching position. 

Austin applied for a position at the Los Rios Community College District and was soon called back for an interview. He started as a professor of communication—in what was then known as the speech department—in 2015. 

“My entire career and its trajectory is due to this one student,” Austin said. “I never thought I would get called for an interview. But as you can tell—I did get called.”

From there, his career has flourished. Austin went on to become the Communication department chair at ARC – and now the Pride Center coordinator.

According to Austin, plans to start a learning community with the LGBTQIA+ community are underway. With this resource in place, students who identify as part of the community will be able to create a schedule and take most of the required general education courses together. 

Some of these courses, English literature for example, will be centered around the community, allowing students to learn about their communities’ work and contributions.

“The goal is students could be in a safe atmosphere in which they can take classes together and excel together and support one another,” Austin said.

The sense of community that Austin seeks to cultivate is also a focus within his classroom. 

For Kylee Dean, one of Austin’s communication students, learning about her classmates’ interests has become a part of the classroom experience. Austin allows the class freedom to explore topics they are passionate about, she says.

“We feel like a real community within the classroom,” Dean said. “I hardly experienced classrooms that foster this sense of community before.”