LGBT establishes new alumni chapter

GVL / Michael Dykstra
Sean Diaz (far right)

GVL / Michael Dykstra Sean Diaz (far right)

Colleen Schonfield

Michigan’s predominantly conservative culture can make it hard for thriving communities, such as the LGBT, to gain full support and acceptance. In an effort to change that dynamic, members and staff of Grand Valley State University’s LGBT Resource Center have made it their mission to ensure members will always have a place where they can feel a sense of belonging. Such a milestone as a newly-established alumni chapter makes this more than possible.

Just weeks ago, the Alumni Association Board approved the LGBT’s application to create an official alumni chapter in hopes of ensuring that even after graduation, students will have a support network to rely on.

“For me personally, it is the desire to connect other Lakers in helping support the LGBT Resource Center to create literal and figurative space on campus and in the community for people to live authentic lives,” said LGBT Resource Center Secretary and Treasurer, Tony Josephson.

To attract and increase chapter participation, social events and networking opportunities will make an appearance between the months of October and December to help raise awareness among current and future alumni within the LGBT community. In 2015, the center will sponsor and host guest speakers from local businesses and non-profit organizations to speak and meet with students.

For Colette Seguin Beighley, director of the LGBT Resource Center, the addition of an alumni chapter will help secure and maintain connections for LGBT members.

“We are so thrilled to be a part of the development of a new LGBT alumni chapter,” Seguin Beighley said. “Our alumni each have unique stories and are committed to helping make Grand Valley an inclusive and supportive place for our LGBT students, staff and faculty.”

Spreading support is one of the underlying goals of the LGBT Resource center, as a college environment can deem stressful for those struggling to discover themselves as well as accepting others for their differences.

“I remember very clearly what it was like being different from almost everyone else and not being able to be myself,” said Paul Cook, president of the alumni chapter. “The LGBT Resource Center, our Alumni Chapter and other similar groups can provide people with a safe place, a sense of belonging and specialized resources.”

Their mission, “to educate, support and empower students to lead authentic lives, to challenge systems of gender and sexuality, and to work for social justice,” aims to promote a sense of well-being and comfort for those who are a part of the LGBT community.

As the resource center continues to develop a strong presence throughout GVSU, members of the LGBT Alumni Association only hope to see an increase in members to maintain such a supportive network.

“We are a fledgling chapter, but our mission is to closely integrate the outside professional resources of our membership to bring real world speakers into the academic setting to bridge the gap between academia, personal and professional lives to students while helping alumni stay actively engaged with the university and LGBT Resource Center,” Josephson said.