Megan Pendleton is our new Assistant Director of the Office of LGBT Life at Emory. Neil Vasudeva, Member-at-Large for GALA., recently spoke with Megan about her Emory experience and her goals for The Office.
Neil: Could you start by telling me a little bit about your background and how you found your current role at Emory in the Office of LGBT Life (The Office)?
Megan: Sure! Well, I’m originally from Baltimore, MD, where I was born and raised with my two younger sisters. For college, I went a little more north and attended Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, which is about an hour or so from Philadelphia. I majored in Environmental Engineering, although by the end of my junior year, I found more meaning in my co-curricular involvements (as an Orientation Leader, a sexual violence peer educator, and a member of the Black Student Union and Spectrum). After college, I decided to pursue internships and other career opportunities in student affairs, and after two years attended UGA’s College Student Affairs Administration Master’s program. After my time in graduate school, I was hired as a Senior Coordinator in Multicultural Services and Programs at UGA, and a year later became the Assistant Director of the office. That role led me to this past fall, when I transitioned into the position here in the Office of LGBT Life.
My passion in student affairs has always been to support, empower, and encourage students to find and use their voices. In many ways, I hope to give back – to bring my experience full circle – and offer to students the same guidance, advocacy, and mentorship that my college mentors gave me. Most often this has come in the form of supporting historically minoritized groups and helping to create pathways for their success, remove barriers, and foster the skills whereby they can navigate an institution, and more importantly, life.
Neil: How has your experience at Emory been so far? What have you enjoyed the most about working in the Office?
Megan: Emory has been really great! Just a couple of days ago, I hit my 6-month mark, and felt like I’d been in a time warp. It feels like I’ve been here for much longer than that! I attribute it to the warmth and sense of community I’ve found with colleagues here. The students are amazing, driven, and profound, and I have had the opportunity to build meaningful relationships already. Additionally, it is nice to be on a smaller close-knit campus, and to be back (since undergrad) at a private institution.
Neil: Would you mind sharing any aspirations or goals you may have as an Assistant Director in the Office?
Megan: Well, I’m still soaking everything in. I can’t say too definitively what goals I’d like to accomplish yet. However, we recently conducted a needs assessment, and it looks like graduate students are longing to connect more with our space, so that will be a priority of mine in the next year; additionally, continuing to find ways to develop our students’ leadership skills, and create practices that are inclusive of our trans and gender non-conforming students, as well as our queer and trans students of color.
Neil: In your time at Emory, what are the biggest challenges you have seen LGBT+ students face during their college careers?
Megan: I’d say figuring out how to navigate the intersection of their identities on campus (i.e. in class, at jobs, etc.), developing methods to communicate with family members who may not be supportive, and knowing when or how to connect with the plethora of resources Emory has to offer.
Neil: Is there advice you have to share with current Emory students who identify as LGBT+ on being out in college, in the classroom, etc.?
Megan: Regarding coming out, my advice would be to move at a pace that is safe and comfortable for you. Know that our office is here to offer space, to advocate for you, and to support you.