The U-M Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Faculty Alliance (UMFA) hosted their annual faculty reception at Rackham Graduate School on Oct. 12. Staff and attendees transformed the school’s East Conference Room into a warm environment filled with lively conversation. The reception was meant to welcome both new and existing faculty members and to create a sense of community at the University of Michigan.
The UMFA is a group of U-M faculty and deans founded in 1992 that works to address academic needs, university policies and curriculum development. The UMFA is one of many resources available to faculty and students through the Spectrum Center — a space where members of the University and local community come together to create a supportive environment for LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff.
The reception is one of many events hosted to celebrate LGBTQ+ history month, which serves to celebrate the fight for LGBTQ+ rights and raise awareness about the history and struggles of people in the community.
Cortney Turner, associate research scientist in the Michigan Neuroscience Institute and an event planner for the UMFA, organized the event. Turner took over for R. Van Harrison, professor emeritus of Learning Health Sciences in the Medical School and a founding member of UMFA.
“It’s very important that especially the new faculty feel like they have a home and feel comfortable (at the University),” Turner said.
Max Li, assistant aerospace engineering professor, said the event was an empowering experience.
“So far I’ve already met a couple of wonderful other staff and faculty, so I think it’s been a really empowering evening,” Li said. “I’m very glad I came in … (I think) just getting to introduce myself and network a little bit and see the broad cadre of roles that LGBTQ+ faculty are playing in this University has been really, really eye-opening and has been really affirming to me.”
Andrew Brouwer, assistant research scientist in the School of Public Health, said he was grateful for the opportunity the event gave him to socialize with other faculty who identified as part of the LGBTQ+ community.
“It’s really nice to be able to go out and see that there’s other people in my community,” Brouwer said. “The University of Michigan’s a big place, and (LGBTQ+ staff) have connections across units.”
Members of the group then formed a circle, and representatives from Rackham and the Spectrum Center spoke about the initiatives they are taking to make spaces at the University more LGBTQ+ friendly. Their presentations sparked a round table where members of the group were able to ask questions and raise specific concerns.
Rackham student Des Velazquez, an intern at the Spectrum Center, said these kinds of events are essential to making sure students and faculty feel safe on campus.
“(Events like these are) a really special place for (faculty) to get to know each other and also build that sense of community,” Velazquez said. “(Faculty members) think it’s really special for (students) to know there’s faculty who have shared identities and experiences.”
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