Randy Jedele, LGBTA Concerns Commission Past Chair
The 1997 NACADA Summer Institute in Madison, Wisconsin was my first exposure to the Association. It was a great learning experience, and I formed life-long friendships, as well as participated in professional networking opportunities. However, one of my concerns during that week was that there was no teaching about, no references to, and no acknowledgement of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered (GLBT) students. However, true to its genuine interest in member concerns and issues, the NACADA Executive Office responded and informed me that there was a Gay and Lesbian Interest Group. I attended their meeting at the Annual Conference in Kansas City.
At this Interest Group meeting, we discussed becoming a Commission. However, it was very apparent at this meeting that if anyone was going to do the paperwork – which meant establishing a rationale for creating the Commission, identifying clear goals, noting how the Commission would expand NACADA’s diversity, writing a first-year action plan, outlining a two-year strategic plan, and naming the first Commission Chair – then I would be the one to move this Interest Group into Commission status. I felt becoming a Commission was important because it would bring a GLBT voice to the NACADA Board.
One important decision made while preparing to become a Commission was determining the name of the Commission. We intentionally named the Commission the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Allies (LGBTA) Concerns Commission. Our intention was to be inclusive and include our allies, because we knew that most of our colleagues in NACADA are not gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered. As allies, these members support our concerns and interests in understanding the potential problems and developmental/identity issues that students in this population may face when being advised about major and career choices.
From my experience serving on several college committees and leading various initiatives, I knew that our first step was to create our Commission’s mission. In preparation for writing our rationale and identifying goals, we established the following as our mission:
- EDUCATE the NACADA membership about the myths and concerns that confront gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students.
- ENCOURAGE conversations among the NACADA membership about sexual orientation and gender identification and its relationship to issues in advising, education/career planning, curriculum, and retention.
- ESTABLISH a supportive environment where NACADA members can discuss and address homophobia and hetero sexism in their institutions and in NACADA.
- ENABLE NACADA members who are LGBTA to network with each other at regional and national conferences.
Through the years, it has been exciting to monitor how the LGBTA Commission has lived its mission. Commission members have presented at several regional and national conferences, coordinated national preconference workshops, and developed print and electronic resources. The presentations have focused on educating advisors on how best to work with and advise students who have sexual orientation and gender concerns or issues. In addition to conference presentations, Commission members have offered Safe Zone trainings at regional and national conferences. Both editions of Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook included sections on advising gay, lesbian, and bisexual students. Two other NACADA publications, Academic Advising: New Insights for Teaching and Learning in the First-Year and Advising Special Populations, have entire chapters devoted to advising GLBT students. The NACADA Webcast “Shared Responsibilities: What Advisors and Administrators Need to Know to Better Assist GLBTQA Students' educated participants, and several articles in the Web-based NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources discuss pertinent topics.
In addition to these presentations and publications, the LGBTA Commission provides other resources on its Web site. These advising resources are in the following categories: advisors, students, allies, studies, and careers. The site also has a “Colleague on Call” program. The purpose of this link is “to offer a referral resource for advisors and administrators who have a quick question or need a reliable referral.” The Commission also provides a listserv for its members and allies.
As NACADA turns 30, it can be proud of its focus on diversity and inclusion by having an LGBTA Concerns Commission. By doing so, NACADA has allowed gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered advisors to come out and not remain in the closet as a hidden minority. NACADA has embraced the importance of understanding the needs and developmental issues of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students, and NACADA has advanced academic advising into the twenty-first century of inclusivity. The LGBTA Commission will never be a large Commission within NACADA, but nevertheless, the Commission brings an important voice and essential message to academic advising throughout the Association.
Chair of Humanities
Des Moines Area Community College