UMD Leads the Way in GLBT-Inclusive Policies, Programs and Practices
|It takes teamwork. These faculty, staff, and students are a few of the people who have made an impact at UMD. Their work is gradually changing the campus climate to a more inclusive and friendly place. (Clockwise from the bottom left) Kaohlee Vue, Angie Nichols, Chris Davila, Amy Jindra, Anna Naughten, Trish O'Keefe, Susanna Pelayo Woodward, and Kamila Xiong.|
|Angie Nichols has served UMD as the director of the GLBT Services Office since 2000.|
|Daniel Harren and other students with diverse backgrounds present Diversity Panels where they share their struggles and hopes. "We invite questions. It is a way to open people up to diversity and break down stereotypes."|
|UMD student Abbie Scheiderer (left) was interviewed by a Duluth-area television station after the announcement.|
Whether overt or subtle, discrimination against people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT), is not tolerated at UMD. Because faculty, staff, and students work so hard to achieve this goal, UMD has received a special honor. It's one of the nation’s Top-25 GLBT-Friendly Colleges and Universities according to the Huffington Post and Campus Pride, the leading national organization for GLBT students, student leaders, and campus groups.
Commitment to Diversity
"I'm really proud of UMD," said Abbie Scheiderer, a senior women's studies major. "UMD is a very welcoming place, and we deserve the high ranking, especially compared to a lot of other schools. We have a strong GLBT community."
Across campus, the uniqueness each individual brings to UMD is recognized. "Our commitment to becoming a more inclusive campus is as strong as ever, and achievements like this one let us know we are making significant progress," said Lendley C. Black, UMD chancellor. "This is especially important because it is aligned with our strategic goal to foster equity, diversity, and social justice."
“I am really impressed by the strides we have made collectively at UMD," said Angie Nichols, director of the UMD GLBT Services Office. “The State of Minnesota’s climate has changed for the better too, which in turn, is helping colleges and universities become healthier and more respectful.”
The Overall Campus Climate
The Top 25 list was based on the final responses to the Campus Pride Index. UMD rated 5 stars in overall campus climate, sexual orientation, and gender identity/expression. UMD received five out of five stars for its overall campus climate score. It also met the criteria of 4.5 stars or above in the eight GLBT-friendly factor areas: campus safety, housing and residence life, student life, support and institutional commitment, counseling and health, academic life, policy inclusion, and recruitment and retention efforts.
Daniel Harren, a junior pre-med major, agreed with the rankings. "When I arrived at UMD, Angie helped me request a roommate who had my same sexual orientation," he said. "That really helped me my first year. It felt safe and I had someone to talk to who was going through the same experiences that I was."
One class was especially important to Harren, the Intercultural Communication class. "I was the only gay person there. We went on 'dates' with students from different cultures, one at a time. Not only was I able to contribute my perspective and diversity to the intercultural class, but I was also able to learn about many other cultures," Harren said.
Harren said UMD excels in offering positive student life experiences. "The Queer Ally Student Union holds lots of events like parades, lectures, movies, and performances. One very important thing we do is present panels to freshmen seminars and other classes." Harren talked about the danger of thinking there is only one story for a segment of the population. The panel is made up of diverse students who share their struggles and hopes with the audience. "We invite questions. It is a way to open people up to diversity and break down stereotypes," Harren said.
The final Top 25 had the highest ratings among public/private colleges and universities with enrollments of 2,500 to over 25,000 students. Macalester College, Carleton College, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Portland State University, Ithaca College, Stanford University, the University of Oregon, and the University of Michigan are a few of the schools also on the list.
"The rating is well deserved," said Susanna Pelayo Woodward, director of the UMD Office of Cultural Diversity. "We continue to offer educational trainings on campus, bring in speakers, and improve our resources and support for GLBT students, staff, and faculty."
There is still work to be done. "At times, it stills feels like we are a pretty small group compared to the rest of the students," said Scheiderer. "But every year, it feels more friendly."
Campus Pride is the leading national organization for student leaders and campus groups working to create a safer college environment for LGBT students.
Story by Cheryl Reitan, August 2013