Creating a Culture of Understanding for the LGBTQ+ Community

October 21, 2019 | By NACE Staff

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TAGS: best practices, career development, diversity and inclusion, nace insights,

Spotlight for Career Services Professionals

In 2017, Mount St. Joseph University’s faculty and staff Ally Affinity Group launched an initiative to redefine the purpose and mission of the Rainbow Alliance LGBTQ+ student organization, and form intentional collaborative relationships with faculty, staff, and administration.

“There was a need to provide support and create a culture of understanding for what it means to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community at a Catholic university and how that translates into a career field through a co-op experience and full-time position post-graduation,” says Nicole Rottmueller-Jones, career development coordinator, and Rainbow Alliance adviser at Mount St. Joseph University.

“We also wanted to create awareness and a continued approach of inclusivity for our campus community.”

Rottmueller-Jones notes that the main goal of this initiative is to create a culture of acceptance in a variety of forms on the Mount St. Joseph campus. She adds that the Career & Experiential Education Center (CEEC) needed to determine how it could provide services that are inclusive to the LGBTQ+ community, as well as to all of its underrepresented student populations.

The variety of methodologies used to catalyze this culture shift include:

  • Evaluating programs, processes, and procedures;
  • Brainstorming with the CEEC’s co-op advisory board, which consists of faculty members and employers from the community, to gather information on how students who identify as LGBTQ+ can approach professional development opportunities and experiential education opportunities, while being their authentic selves;
  • Gathering on-campus allies to discuss best practices and how to be more “visible” to and supportive of students;
  • Consulting with local universities to create a variety of trainings available to the entire campus community; and
  • Working with the other affinity student organizations on campus to create an inclusive campus environment.

“The initial work provided a framework for a culture of understanding that evolved into students having a better grasp of how to put their best self forward, whether on campus, in a job interview, during a cooperative education or service learning experience, or in other circumstances,” Rottmueller-Jones says.

The shift has had a significant impact at Mount St. Joseph University.

“Each presentation and training has been altered to be the most effective for the audience to which it was being presented,” Rottmueller-Jones says.

“I have developed and enhanced collaborative partnerships with a variety of departments and student organizations to assist with the leadership in our faculty and staff professional ally affinity group, and faculty and administrative staff across campus.”

Over this summer, she worked with an intern and the Mount St. Joseph Institutional Advancement office to create a diverse employer databasewhich is used to continue to pursue employer development meetingsand creation of co-op and full-time employment opportunities for underrepresented students and alumni.

“I also facilitated a collaboration between the Rainbow Alliance and the Institute for Applied Creativity and Transformation at the University of Dayton to create a ’Zine,” Rottmueller-Jones adds.

“This publication was written for students by students and highlighted, from the student’s perspective, what it means it be queer and Catholic, that there isn’t one right way to be gay [intersectionality], and the resources our campus provides for students, as well as Safe Zone trained faculty and staff.”

Rottmueller-Jones also works with the office of student engagement and leadership to provide Pathways to Allyship trainings, which target a large variety of underrepresented populations, and the Ally Affinity group provides two Safe Zone Trainings, for faculty, staff, and students each academic year. She serves as the Rainbow Alliance adviser and leads the Professional Ally Affinity Group with the dean of students and assistant dean of students.

“I strive every day to make sure the Career & Experiential Education Center is inclusive in all aspects of diversity and inclusion, whether it be the material we present in the professional development courses we teach, how we talk about professional dress, how we address individuals, using proper pronouns, and more,” Rottmueller-Jones notes.

“When I became involved with the Rainbow Alliance and the Professional Ally Affinity Group in 2017, there was only an LGBTQ+ student organization with a handful of members. Through collaborative relationships, a variety of trainings have been created and delivered, a poster campaign has been brought to fruition addressing misconceptions and stereotypes, and the Career & Experiential Education Center has continued to grow and develop a culture of inclusiveness to all of our students and alumni. The movement started with students in leadership roles in the organization that I advise, but continues to evolve daily to include all students and allies across campus.”