Feeling at home

A peek into one organization’s big conference experience

“She inspired me.”

That’s what DSAGA vice president said of Chely Wright, the first workshop Ferris State students attended at the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference [MBLGTACC].

Inspiration was also echoed by other attendees. Earlier this month, fifteen members of the Diverse Sexuality and Gender Alliance made the 14-hour drive to attend the largest LGBTA conference in the nation, which boasts about 1,700 college students attending every year.

Held in downtown Kansas City, this was an opportunity for the students to network, learn and advance their careers through professional experience.

“It’s a professional conference on a collegiate level that allows you to network with other people who run LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] organizations and are involved with LGBT rights on campus,” said Brandon Laninga, president of DSAGA and senior in psychology. “It allows you to network, make connections, and learn what other colleges are doing… It’s all about becoming more prominent on campus and ways to give back to a community in a conservative area.”

The conference is a three-day frenzy of workshops and speakers. From the very first workshop the Ferris students attended, featuring country singer Wright, the students were thrilled.

“They had inspirational speakers,” DSAGA Vice President Robert Gaudette said. “I do not like country at all, and I’m not religious by any means, but there was this lesbian country singer who was also Christian… Even though I had nothing really in common with her, I completely understood where she was coming from. She inspired me.”

This year’s conference was held Feb. 7-9. DSAGA provided funding for transportation and registration for each member.

“The rest of our support came from both the Office of Multicultural Student Services, OMSS, and the Diversity Inclusion Office from Dr. [David] Pilgrim,” Laninga said. “We didn’t approach the Finance Division because they were changing their rules for allocation of travel purpose and things like that, and we didn’t have it in time.”

Despite the high cost, Ferris students who attended were quick to say the trip was “most certainly” worth it. Just picking out favorite workshops was a struggle, as there were panels spanning everything from on-campus housing and LGBT-inclusive programming to LGBT representation in entertainment.

“They had this workshop called ‘Star Trek To Tumblr,’” said Emily Pachla, a junior in marketing. “It had the clear history throughout the fandoms, everything I could think of that was nerdy… [The speaker] was talking about how we want to see that stuff in the television community because it’s so normal to see straight people in television, so when we see someone that we can relate to, it warms our hearts. It’s serious for us.”