3:30pm

Tue April 1, 2014
Arts & Culture

Inaugural LGBT Conference at MTSU Puts Spotlight on Diversity April 10-12

The first statewide collegiate conference of its kind in Tennessee will be the standout feature of this year’s SpringOut! Pride Week at MTSU.

Student organizations from more than 30 colleges and universities along with corporate and community leaders are invited to attend the inaugural LGBT+ College Conference on campus April 10-12. The theme is “The Advocate in You!”

“Launching this conference allows an opportunity to share our knowledge and showcase the impact of our 25-year history of working with our university,” said Joshua Rigsby, president of MT Lambda, the student organization behind the event.

MT Lambda has supported the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community at MTSU since its founding in 1988. It is the oldest collegiate student organization of its kind in Tennessee.

“We’re striving to unify all the LGBT+ groups in higher education across the state from Memphis all the way to Johnson City,” said Rigsby, a senior organizational communication major from Murfreesboro.

“Our secondary goal is to equip these students with the tools they need to create positive change for diversity and inclusion in their individual campus communities,” Rigsby added.

Attendance at the conference is free for faculty, staff and students of higher education institutions. There is a $100 tax-deductible patron sponsorship for the general public.

Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign from 1995 to 2004, will be a special guest at the conference awards dinner at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 12, in the James Union Building’s Tennessee Room.

The dinner will recognize outstanding leaders of the LGBT+ community and its allies. Tickets are $50 each. Reservations may be made by the Wednesday, April 2, deadline at www.mtalumni.com.

As head of the country’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, Birch worked with hundreds of companies in helping them revamp their nondiscrimination policies to cover LGBT employees.

Today, Birch is president and CEO of the Elizabeth Birch Company, a media and public relations firm with recent clients that include Shell, General Foods and IBM.

Other conference presenters scheduled to speak include Deloitte Services Director Jan Maddox, actress Jennifer Lanier and MTSU alumnus Alan Gendreau.

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee has awarded a discretionary grant to help fund the conference. MTSU’s College of Behavioral and Health Sciences is the gathering’s academic partner.

Other supporters include presenting sponsors Deloitte Services LLP and Nissan North America, as well as the June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students, the MTSU National Women’s History Month Committee and the Tennessee Equality Project.

SpringOut! Pride Week events not connected with the conference include:

  • “Outapalooza,” a minifair on the Student Union commons, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, April 7;
  • “SpringOut DragOut,” a drag show, 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, April 7, in the James Union Building, advance tickets $5 for general admission, $10 for VIP seats, $10 general admission, $15 VIP seats at the door;
  • “No Hate Photo Booth,” 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, April 8, Student Union Building commons;
  • Asexuality Awareness Day information table, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 9, Keathley University Center knoll;
  • “Flags of Our Fathers: Homophobia Disguised as Patriotism,” a presentation by Dr. Pat Richey, assistant professor of speech and theatre, 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 9, State Farm Lecture Hall, Business and Aerospace Building.

For more information about SpringOut! Pride Week or the LGBT+ College Conference, contact Rigsby at 615-545-6477 or mtlambda@mtsu.edu or go to the MT Lambda website at http://capone.mtsu.edu/mtlambda/. A searchable campus map with parking details is available at http://tinyurl.com/MTSUParkingMap13-14.

Elizabeth Burch
Elizabeth Burch