Milton E. Ford LGBT Center names new director


GVL / Meghan Tripp (Landgren)

Zoë Murphy, Staff Writer

As students return to Grand Valley State University for the fall 2022 semester, they’ll find new leadership at the university’s Milton E. Ford LGBT Center.

West Michigan social advocate, D.L. McKinney, has been named as the center’s newest director to lead it into the new year.

Founded in 2008, the Center has advocated for LGBTQ students, faculty and members of the campus community for over a decade. From its office in Kirkhof Center, the LGBT Center has established a visible presence for students and faculty across campus.

Being a member of the LGBTQ community, McKinney said they believe in the importance of the mentorship and advocacy the Center can provide for students.

“As a trans, queer, Black, disabled person, I have always been taught that my success won’t look like the average person’s and that my glass ceiling was low, thick and impermeable,” McKinney said. “However, it took just one person to truly see and hear me.”

Now taking charge of the LGBT Center, McKinney said they hope to use their experience to be a mentor and advocate for others like them.

“I’ve had many amazing leaders in my life who saw worth in me being my authentic self,” McKinney said. “It completely changed the trajectory of my own journey and I want everyone to have that experience. So, I gave my all to get this position and I am elated in knowing that I’ve been given a chance to be that one person for someone else.”

GVSU has been acknowledged in the past for its efforts to ensure its status as a welcoming campus for LGBTQ individuals. The university has been recognized as recently as 2020 as the best university in Michigan for LGBTQ students by Campus Pride and BestColleges.

The university has accrued multiple similar accolades in past years and maintains a 4.5-star rating from the Campus Pride Index regarding its commitment to LGBTQ inclusivity on campus.

Seeking to expand inclusivity on campus as their tenure begins, McKinney laid out new plans for the future of the LGBT Center – plans that will they hope will help the Center flourish even more than it already has in the past 14 years.

When asked about their plans for the center, McKinney detailed their ambitions to foster a strong emphasis on connection with the campus and surrounding areas.

“Connecting with the GV and West Michigan community, in my mind, is how we facilitate change and grow,” McKinney said. “I have met so many wonderful people already and getting to know their field of expertise gives fresh eyes to all the possibilities to make Grand Valley more cohesive, safe and affirming for LGBTQIA+ staff, faculty and students.”

McKinney indicated they seek to continue the Center’s ongoing goal of advocating for all students and being a safe space for them to be seen and heard.

As they prepare to do so going into the school year, McKinney said they care greatly for the students and mentioned that meeting new students is one of the things they are most excited about as the new director.

“I get to know dozens of really cool young people who are being brave and making moves in this world I couldn’t even think was possible when I was younger,” McKinney said. “I get to be present for history being made.”