Western Michigan University Begins LGBT Alumni Group

By |2014-03-13T09:00:00-04:00March 13th, 2014|Michigan, News|

By Shelby Clark Petkus

Jen Hsu, left, with founding members of WMU LGBT Alumni group.

Western Michigan college graduates now have a LGBT Alumni Association to join: the Pride Alumni Association of Western Michigan University (PAA).
Main goals of the organization are to reach out to WMU alumni who identify as LGBT or allies, promote and encourage LGBT-inclusive policies at WMU, support the efforts of WMU’s existing Office of LGBT Student Services (both financially and through volunteering) and connect LGBTA alumni with their alma mater.
The group formed in 2013 when Jen Hsu, coordinator for WMU’s Office of LGBT Student Services, realized there was no mechanism to keep a connection between LGBT students and alumni. At WMU’s first Lavender Graduation last year, Hsu and other students discussed the “missing link” and came up with the idea of starting an alumni group. Lavender Graduation was a special ceremony for graduating LGBT and allied students. This year, PAA will help support the graduation on April 24.
Together with recent WMU graduates, Matthew Vargo, Jacob Smallegan, and Erica Whitaker, the PAA began to become a reality. David Topping, a political consultant in Kalamazoo, became Membership Chair of the group.
The summer of 2013 was spent planning out the group’s goals and events, leading to a Homecoming event in the fall. Alumni in town for Homecoming got a chance to attend a mixer thrown by PAA, where over thirty alumni attended. Many connections and conversations at the mixer resulted in an intimate, and welcoming, function. PAA set up a table at the University Tailgate the day of the game, resulting in hundreds of students and alumni learning about the association.
In regards to future plans within the university, Topping and Hsu note “The association has yet to identify any specific areas of change, but looks forward to having these conversations with campus stakeholders.” In the meantime, focus will be spent on events and campaigns to increase awareness. So far, members have started joining from as far away as Oklahoma, and with graduates as far back as 2001.
Future events will include working with area organizations, including KGLRC. According to Topping, “We’re lucky in that our reach, like all alumni associations, can be global. We plan to work with as many organizations as possible to reach out to LGBT alumni, no matter where they are located. The KGLRC has been a fantastic partner for the Office of LBGT Student Services, and many of us have had wonderful experiences working with them.”
To learn more about the Pride Alumni Association at WMU, visit http://www.tinyurl.com/PAAsignup.

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