(Neil Vasudeva, ‘16B, Member at Large on the Executive Committee of GALA, recently spoke with Kaitlin Porter, 08PH, an outstanding alumna of Rollins School of Public Health, and currently a Manager at Deloitte Consulting in their Federal Healthcare Practice. Thanks, Kaitlin, for sharing your Rollins/LGBT+ experience with us.)
Neil: Could you start by telling me a little bit about your background and how you ended up at Rollins for your graduate degree?
Kaitlin: Absolutely. I went to a school in Virginia for my undergraduate degree, James Madison University, and came to Emory straight out from undergrad. I graduated with a degree in international relations/political science and I always had an interest in the health space and global health. So I thought there was no better place to be a public health student than Emory with its proximity to the CDC.
Neil: How was your Rollins experience from an LGBT+ perspective?
Kaitlin: I came out while I was studying in Atlanta. During my first year of graduate school, I came out and knew that I was seeking something different. To me, Atlanta is a liberal environment in a very red state. When I came out, I had the support of the Emory community, and it felt like a very wonderful, loving, and supported experience. I felt quite liberated.
Neil: What challenges do you think LGBT+ students faced during your times at Rollins?
Kaitlin: I graduated 10 years ago, so things were quite different. We did not get much face time with alumni – especially LGBTQ alumni. Coming in to graduate school is similar to coming in to this part of “adulthood,” and it would have been nice to have had a community of LGBTQ alums. It would have provided a better support structure for LGBTQ students. Another challenge I noticed at Rollins was with student turnover in relation to programming. Given that we all attend Rollins for mostly two-year programs, it can be challenging to create long-term, sustainable programming.
Neil: How was your experience leading/being a part of the LGBT+ student organization at Rollins? What hurdles did you face as an organization (i.e. challenging administration, regulations/rules, etc.)?
Kaitlin: I was involved with the LGBT student group at Rollins. Again I found that the main issue was with student turnover. Given the turnover, I hope – and I don’t know if things have changed now – that the school invests in resources and faculty/staff in order to maintain sustainable programming. However this is a pretty similar struggle to most other campus organizations. We did not experience any greater hurdles.
Neil: What do you believe that Rollins could do to improve the LGBT+ student experience?
Kaitlin: I think the school should gather data on the Emory LGBTQ community. It would be great to use this database to connect current students with alumni from an LGBTQ perspective. Rollins should try to create that experience in order to create a community for LGBTQ students in the professional world.
Neil: Is there advice you have to share with current Rollins students who identify as LGBT+ on being out in the workplace?
Kaitlin: I would say it starts in your job search. Make sure to do your homework in order to see if you would be comfortable in the work environment of a specific company. Company culture is often overlooked, and I believe it’s important to research and understand what policies a company has to support its LGBTQ community. In addition, look at what a company does to support the community. There are a lot of different areas/statistics to look at, from the HRC index to the employee resource groups. If you’re even comfortable coming out in your interview, maybe consider bringing up questions you have around this topic in an interview.