The Sam Houston State University faculty and staff hosted their first LGBTQI* Network Mixer of the school year last night. Any SHSU professionals who identify as LGBTQI* were invited to attend.
There are four co- coordinators for the network made up of Ching-In Chen, assistant professor in the English Department, Paul Eaton, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, Ervin Malakaj, assistant professor in the Department of Foreign Languages, and Drew Miller, assistant Vice President of Student Services and Executive Director of Counseling and Health Services.
The first ever LGBTQI* Network Mixers was in the spring semester of 2016.
“Last semester’s first network mixer was a good step towards connecting LGBTQI* faculty and staff on our campus,” Chen said. “We shared experiences of what it’s like to be an LGBTQI* faculty and staff member and did a needs assessment of our community. It laid the groundwork for more collaboration of programming relevant to our community.”
During the semester the network met up again and has several smaller steering committee meetings to plan for the gathering and develop other kinds of activities.
“Each mixer was extremely productive for the network,” Malakaj said. “We established that programming will continue to bring members of the LGBTQI* professional community on campus together to exchange experiences and expand our professional reach.”
When the coordinators first thought about the network they knew they wanted it to be a lasting institution.
“We conceived of this network as an ongoing and central professional group on campus, which would show visibility and support for members of our community,” Malakaj said.
The network has had a very supportive reaction from SHSU faculty and staff as far. According to the coordinators, some expressed interest but could not make it. With the continuation of the network in this semester the coordinators hope that those few will now be able to attend.
“We plan to continue to build the network to support those who identify as LGBTQI* faculy and staff,” Chen said. “We hope that some of those folks who have reached out to us in the past who were unable to come, can come this time.”
Both Chen and Malakaj said that there has been a strong support from other faculty and staff members who do not identify as LGBTQI*. The network plans on collaborating with these allies are to come in the future.
“We are also interested in planning a larger event for allies,” Chen said. “We have had much support from faculty and staff and leadership at Sam. I haven’t received any negative feedback as of yet.”
The Network is planning to welcome allies in various capacities.
“We want to do possibly a public program with an expert on LGBTQI* community issues and faculty brown bag talks,” Chen said.
Malakaj said having this network is important because of past treatment.
“Our communities have additionally been politicized in ways that makes some feel extremely cautious in bringing up the personal in professional settings,” Malakaj said. “In response, the SHSU LGBTQI* Faculty and Staff Network seeks to foster community among LGBTQI* professionals. Network members, who serve in various capacities at Sam, can share their experiences with our network and will collectively further intellectual, social, and other professional activity that seeks to put the concerns of the LGBTQI* community at the heart of conversations.”
To ensure the network is a safe and welcoming the mixer was located off campus at the Patio Cafe on University Avenue.
Even though the meetings are just for SHSU professionals, the SHSU LGBTQI* Faculty and Staff Network has been interacting with the students as well.
“Some of our members attended Haven trainings and the Lavender Graduation,” Chen said. “We also met with LGBTQI* students from GSK, Gamma Sigma Kappa.”
The SHSU LGBTQI* Faculty and Staff Network plans to continue meeting and collaborating with different organizations. To get more information on this group please email email@example.com.