In the midst of February’s winter snow, six Emory students attended the Creating Change Conference in Denver. The students were recipients of awards from GALA’s Aycock Leadership Development Fund, and they were joined at the conference by several Emory LGBT alumni. Since its inception, over forty students have received awards from the Aycock Fund to attend national and regional conferences and workshops to develop their leadership skills.
Kayley Scruggs 17C, a pre-nursing student, said of her experience, “The Creating Change Conference has inspired me to find meaning in my work as a student leader by giving me space to connect my background, experiences, and identities to my leadership. Because of Creating Change, my confidence in my identity has grown exponentially, and I have realized the importance of connecting my identity to the work I am doing daily. I realize I am not only an activist; I am a feminist, bisexual activist. Each of my many identities influences my desire for social progress, and those identities enable me to stand in solidarity with other activists.”
“This is the third Creating Change Conference that I have had the privilege of attending,” said Kolia Kroeger 15C, President of Emory Pride. “Each of the previous conferences held different meanings for me, but this year was dramatically different. As a soon-to-be graduating senior, I found that much of the choices in sessions and activities I chose to attend were related to my post-college path. I went to events that focused primarily on trans* policy initiatives and how to be more supportive of racial justice within the LGBT community. At the same time, I did not completely ignore campus LGBTQ issues. In fact, Nowmee Shehab 16C and I led a caucus that explored the reasons behind the difficulty in sustaining a campus organization and strategies to improve. My overall take away from this conference can be distilled into a few non-experiential words: binaries are divisions and only hinder the inclusive desire of the LGBTQ movement.”
Michael Shutt, Interim Director of Emory’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion, also noted that two other Emory alumni presented at the conference. Dohyun Ahn 14C, a graduate student in the College Student Affairs administration program at the University of Georgia, presented on building allyship on college campuses. Dohyun also co-facilitated a caucus for LGBTQIA graduate students. Jaspal Bhatia 12C, now a Program Associate with the Advancement Project in Washington D.C., delivered a presentation on “school pushout,” the process by which youth are pushed from schools into the juvenile justice system. Dohyun and Jaspal are past recipients of the Aycock Leadership Award.
“Emory has been well represented at Creating Change for several years now,” says Aby Parsons 13G, another alumna who was in Denver. “I attended for four years as a graduate student and was always galvanized by the energy, passion, and knowledge of LGBTQIA leaders from around the country, especially campus leaders. This was my first year as an alumna and it was exciting and encouraging to see our current students have a similarly uplifting experience. All of the Emory staff, students, and alumni who were in town for the conference gathered for a dinner on the last night, so I got to hear firsthand from students how much they were benefiting from attending the conference. Their presence at Creating Change was made possible by the Aycock fund, and it was clear that they were incredibly grateful for the opportunity to go to the conference and develop their leadership skills.” (Aby is the inaugural Director of the LGBTQIA Resource Center at Georgia Tech.)