Regional Activities: Expanding SIG Outreachby Peter Kerrigan, IIE
NAFSA's regional conferences in November 2000 hosted a variety of Lesbigay SIG-related activities, including sessions and social events. Lesbigay SIG regional meetings were planned in Regions I, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, XX and XI. Sessions were held in Re gion VI in Sandusky, Ohio (GOLDEN TICKET for Education Abroad: Entry and Beyond) in Region VIII in Richmond, Virginia (Creating a Welcoming and Inclusive International Office) and in Regions XX and XXI in Montreal, Canada (LGBT Issues: A Canadian Perspect ive).
The following summaries of regional activities were submitted to the newsletter.
We had our first regional SIG meeting ever in Region I. It was well attended by students, colleagues and even a friend of the SIG, who came because she had just come out in her community in Idaho as being Jewish and was dealing with the ramifications o f that. It was a fun discussion.
Peter Voeller did a session on how NAFSA, the SIG and international education changed the course of his life and ended up talking more about the gay aspect of it all that he'd intended. It was also well received and afterwards, another friend of the SI G came up to ask if she could be a part of the support even if she was not gay.
More gay activity at the local level than before was nice to see! Jacqueline Bedard was regional chair of the conference and added a very nice touch to everything, including a Queen Victoria impersonator at the opening lunch! We even had enough rainbow flags to distribute to the group.
On the evening before the SIG, a group of six of us (two of whom were at the SIG the next day) enjoyed a little socializing at a quaint, gay-owned, French bistro.
It seemed valuable to have a SIG at the Region I conference.
Chris Sullivan from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Maiko Morotani (student at Grinnell College) and I (FSA at Grinnell College) presented in Iowa City in November. The session was submitted as one of three nominations to the Regional Highlights for Philadelphia, but was not selected to present in Philadelphia.
The session entitled, When a Student Comes Out to You: Help for Advisers Working with Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgendered International Students, provided resources and help in understanding how coming-out issues affect international students in unique ways, in order to help attendees think proactively about how to make their offices more supportive of GLBT students.
This session helped advisers think about unique needs of international GLBT students who come out while they are students in the U.S. The panel included two advisers and a student who told their own story. We also provided an opportunity to work throug h case studies, and to think proactively about how the advising office can be supportive of GLBT students. A bibliography and other resources were available.
The first LGBT SIG meeting in Region V took place on November 6, 2000 in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Region V consists of the States of Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan. Around 15 people attended the meeting. The group went right to work and decided to begin planning an annual LGBT SIG meeting at each Region V conference, which will take place in November in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The group came up with the following goals and objectives.
It was exciting to have the opportunity to get together and support one another. There was a good mix of LGBT persons and advocates. For a first meeting, I think it was a great success. After the meeting, most of the group went for dinner and afterward s a number of people when out on the town to a LGBT pub not far from the hotel. For LGBT professionals in Region V, it was the first chance we have had to interact on a regional level. Everyone seemed to be looking forward to building awareness of LGBT is sues in Region V and most importantly, better serving LGBT students within the region's colleges and universities.
NAFSANs at the Region VI conference were treated to several events for Lesbigay members and for educators working with LGBT students preparing to study abroad.
The first night of the conference the Lesbigay SIG organized a "no host" dinner. 16 people signed up and gathered to follow our rainbow flag to Benny Vito's, an Italian American restaurant located at the site of an off-track betting facility. Conversat ion was lively and we were able to pass out rainbow stickers and discuss the SIG with newcomers. Although there are not many LGBT professionals in Region IV it was nice to see many conference attendees sporting rainbow flags on their nametags (many of who m chased me down to get theirs).
On the last day of the conference, LGBT student issues were highlighted in a SECUSSA poster session on study abroad issues. The new web-site was prominently advertised and displayed. The information provided focused on creating a friendly and supportiv e environment for LGBT students and how advisors and students can find useful country and culture specific information on LGBT issues. Attendees had a variety of questions and even some great stories to share about how LGBT participants have helped them t o improve their own program orientations and materials. This session was also an excellent opportunity to promote the SIG and the new website as a valuable resource for ALL professionals in NAFSA. Folks liked the new colorful brochures (they look GREAT Bo !). Many of the people I talked with are looking forward to seeing what the Lesbigay SIG has planned for sessions in Philly.
Region X and XI Bi-Regional
Region X and XI conference crossed the border into Montreal, Canada for their annual conference. The combined the forces of both regions to put together a wide array of conference sessions. One of these included a LGBT session titled "Lesbian, Gay, Bis exual, Transgender Issues: A Canadian Perspective. The session was a presented a case study of Concordia University. In the early 90's, a task force investigated issues facing queers in academic and non-curricular areas. The report that resulted develope d policies cross the university as well as laid the groundwork for a minor in sexuality studies. The session presenters included Dean of Students, Donald Boisvert, Professor Frances Shaver, Ann Kirby and Sally Spilhaus. The presenters, both faculty and st aff, felt that institutions today are now confronting the issues Concordia dealt with eight years ago. Their self -study is a good model for doing the same on other campuses.
In addition to the above session, I recently presented a LGBT session in New York at Metro International. Metro is a community organization that sponsors activities for international students attending schools in the New York metropolitan area. A month
ly meeting brings together Foreign Student advisors as well as other international education professionals. The primary presenter was Todd Smith who directs the Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender services at New York University. His present
ation gave incite on how to deal with LGBT students on campus. I expanded on his presentation with resource material extracted from the SIG website. A major outcome from this presentation was it opened the eyes of Metro that they are not providing any act
ivities for LBGT students. Imagine this in New York City. Hopefully this will change!
In addition to the above session, I recently presented a LGBT session in New York at Metro International. Metro is a community organization that sponsors activities for international students attending schools in the New York metropolitan area. A month ly meeting brings together Foreign Student advisors as well as other international education professionals. The primary presenter was Todd Smith who directs the Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender services at New York University. His present ation gave incite on how to deal with LGBT students on campus. I expanded on his presentation with resource material extracted from the SIG website. A major outcome from this presentation was it opened the eyes of Metro that they are not providing any act ivities for LBGT students. Imagine this in New York City. Hopefully this will change!
This article appeared in the Spring 2001 edition of Lesbigay SIGnals
Indiana University Office of Overseas Study
Copyright 2000, The Trustees of Indiana University
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Comments: NAFSA: Rainbow SIG