MTSU’s Lambda organization continues to celebrate milestones. Last fall the student-led organization celebrated its 25th anniversary, and this month launch their inaugural LGBT+ College Conference.

The conference will span three days from April 10-12. Sessions will cover a diverse variety LGBT+ issues including: community engagement, political activism, transgender issues and more.

The conference is free and open to all currently enrolled students, faculty, & staff at higher education institutions in the state of Tennessee. The general public, or those not a currently enrolled as student, faculty or staff in Tennessee, can attend with a $100 tax-deductible patron sponsorship.

Out & About Nashville chatted with MT Lambda President Joshua Rigsby about the upcoming conference, its intentions and future plans.

 

Out & About Nashville: Can you share the genesis of the MTSU LGBT+ College Conference?

Joshua Rigsby: Members of MT Lambda felt that many other organizations around the state were eager for a statewide conference event, but no college or university student group is as able and well positioned as we are at MTSU. We have full support from our administration for the event, the conference is being cosponsored by the MTSU College of Behavioral & Health Sciences, and MTSU’s geographical location made it a prime location for such a conference.

 

O&AN: Is MTSU the first Tennessee public institution to hold such a conference?

JR: MTSU is the first TN institution, both public and private, to host a conference specifically geared towards LGBT+ students in TN. Our goal is to unify LGBT+ students across the state in what will become an annual event. Preexisting conferences hosted around the state aim to impact more than just Tennessee students. MT Lambda is also the first student organization in MTSU’s 102yr history to organize and launch an annual conference—past conferences, which were founded at MTSU, have been planned by centers or University departments, but never a student organization.

 

O&AN: It seems current legislation being announced (SB 2493) is aimed at stopping LGBT groups from having speakers on campus. While it’s not law, in the future what will MTSU do for its LGBT+ Conference in lieu of using institutional funds?

JR: The conference is sponsored by corporations and not by MTSU. If this bill were to become law, this conference would not be affected.

 

O&AN: Can you share a bit of information about the conference’s sponsors?

JR: The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee awarded a discretionary grant to support the effort and the College of Behavioral & Health sciences is the academic cosponsor for the event. Other conference sponsors and supporters include Nissan, Deloitte Services LLP, McDonalds, the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, & TEP.

 

O&AN: MT Lambda celebrated 25 years last year. How has the climate of MTSU changed over the past 25 years and would this have been possible say 5 years ago?

JR: Over all, the main change that we’ve seen over the past 25 years has been in relation to the student body. 25 years ago, many students were very much against the existence of MT Lambda on campus. Now, we not only have the full support of our student body but we function as a quasi arm of the University whenever there is  LGBT+ programming or resources being organized.

 

O&AN: What do you hope to accomplish with this conference?

JR: Our vision is for this conference to become an annual academic event for students across the state and to build a statewide network of LGBT+ students.

 

O&AN: The LGBT community is often criticized for omitting the ‘B’ and ‘T’ in their initiatives. Is there any programming specifically for these groups scheduled?

JR: We have programming focusing on a variety of LGBT+ community issues. These will be unlike similar conference sessions at other conferences in Tennessee. Our breakout sessions are designed to educate members in our community on issues other members in our community face. For instance, our Life of Bi session has not been designed for Bisexual persons to attend, instead we will be encouraging conference attendants who are not bisexual to attend. We want to have an open and honest discussion concerning the misconceptions and discriminatory attitudes others in the community have against Bisexual persons. Our primary goal is to break down the barriers of discrimination in our community, which have prevented and continue to prevent us from moving forward towards equality. Our other breakout sessions have the same underlying goal.

 

O&AN: Finally, any more details you would like to share about programming or speaks for the conference?

JR: We have several highlights planned including actress Jennifer Lanier in a stage performance of None of the Above. Jennifer’s multi-cultural background (American Indian & African American) is the start of this comic stew. Throw in the pangs of first love, dysfunctional family dynamics, and coming out with Diana Ross. Her performance will leave folks laughing, cajoled into thinking about diversity, acceptance, & letting go of judgment. This funny, emotional, thought-provoking performance has mesmerized audiences across the spectrum---students, faculty, professional providers, human rights organizations, and general audiences across the country.

We also have MTSU Alum Alan Gendreau, the first openly gay division one football player and source of great pride for the University. He will discuss his experience and provide personal insight into the stereotypical barriers that are most often associated with the world of sports in a session entitled Breaking the Barriers of Athletics.

 

Register for the conference online here: http://goo.gl/9cMHlV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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