Reflecting Stony Brook’s commitment to diversity and social justice, the Student Activities Center became a pop-up city of LGBTQ students, faculty, staff and allies for the Northeast LGBT College Conference during the first weekend in April. Schools from all over the Northeast region visited campus for a weekend of workshops, speakers, performances, networking and celebration.
The conference officially kicked off Friday, April 1, with an opening plenary that began with a warm welcome from Dr. Timothy Ecklund, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, and Cheryl Chambers, Associate Dean and Director of Multicultural Affairs.
During the plenary session, poets Regie Cabico and Kit Yan shared their work with an appreciative audience. Three Stony Brook students from the host committee, Luna Vasquez ’18, Sydney Monroe Gaglio ’18 and graduate student Lauren La Magna, emceed the session.
The second day of the conference included workshop sessions on a variety of topics including identities, intersections and activism. The workshops aimed to inform and challenge the way we understand our world, opening up dialogues for personal growth, exploration of personal identities, and ways to connect with the multitude of communities around us.
Mya Taylor, an award-winning actress known for her roles in the movies Tangerine and the upcoming Happy Birthday Marsha, keynoted the afternoon plenary. The day’s proceedings were closed out by Chris Tanaka, Coordinator of LGBTQ* Services at Stony Brook, who shared thoughts on the importance of conferences like these for the growth, health and wellbeing of LGBTQ communities.
Evening festivities included a dance (with music by DJ Monica Bello), a game room complete with a sing-a-long viewing of RENT and the Chill Space for relaxation, quiet, arts and crafts.
The Sunday closing brunch plenary spotlighted Adaku Utah, award-winning educator and organizer, healer and performance ritual artist. Utah’s presentation took the participants on a journey of personal liberation stressing the importance of community healing and the power of love.
Fostering a Welcoming Campus Community
During the conference, a video message from President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD, shared highlights from the University’s draft Diversity plan, including the expansion of policies regarding chosen names, the creation of permanent multi-stall, all-gender restrooms in the Student Activities Center, and the opening of an LGBTQ* Center in the near future.
- The objective of the Diversity Plan is to enhance the campus community and allow every one of its members to feel more welcome and included on campus.
- The implementation of parts of the University’s draft Diversity Plan initiatives, such as all-gender restrooms, during the conference, were vital to creating the affirming environment which allowed the conference to be as inviting and inclusive as possible.
President Stanley’s sentiments were echoed by Dr. Peter Baigent, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dr. Dallas Bauman, Associate Vice President for Campus Residences, who shared their own messages of support.
The Northeast LGBT Conference by the Numbers
The conference was a tremendous success thanks to the hard work of the conference host committee, led by co-chairs Chris Tanaka, Coordinator of LGBTQ* Services, and Lauren La Magna, a second-year Masters of Social Welfare student, who organized a robust 3-day conference for the over 460 students, faculty and staff in attendance. Attendees came from 38 colleges and universities from 9 states in the Northeast region.
- 3 conference days
- 460 attendees: students, faculty and staff
- 38 colleges and universities
- 9 states in the Northeast
- 39 workshops
- 3 plenary sessions
- 3 social events
- 107 public posts using hashtag #nelgbtc16