For five days, eight Murray State staff members and students along with one community volunteer took part in the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s annual Creating Change conference.
The group left for Houston Wednesday and stayed until Sunday taking part in a number of workshops, trainings and other activities. The conference also included keynote speeches delivered by Michael Kaplan, president of AIDS United, Phil Wilson, president of the Black AIDS Institute and Lavern Cox, critically-acclaimed transgender actress currently starring in Netflix’s Orange is the New Black.
Jody Cofer Randall, LGBT program coordinator, attended Creating Change in the past and led this year’s group, Murray State’s first to attend the conference.
“After attending (Creating Change) several years ago and seeing the variety of skill-building activities and educational workshops they offer, I knew it would be something that our students would benefit in as we continue working to make Murray State more inclusive of all students,” Cofer Randall said.
The funding for this trip was provided by the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion, Alliance, and by Murray State’s Office of LGBT Programming. As part of the program, students were required to keep a daily journal of the activities and workshops the participated in.
Jo Bennet, sophomore and Alliance’s marketing officer, attended the conference and said keeping the journal has helped him retain the information and experiences he gained from the trip as well as allowed him to reflect on it better.
Bennett said Creating Change is on a completely different level than any conference Alliance has attended in the past. While one of the regional conferences Alliance attend may include participants from five to eight states, Creating Change boasted approximately 4,000 attendees from across the U.S.
D Andrew Porter, senior and Office of LGBT Programming intern, also attended Creating Change. He said the conference gave him a chance to network and connect with people who are as passionate about the same subjects. As he is
“What’s really beautiful about Creating Change is that you have so many different perspectives, all in one room, but addressing the same topic,” he said.
Porter said the experience inspired him to be more proactive and work toward a greater level of organization here at Murray State and in the community he lives in, not just attend conferences other organizations put on in other parts of the U.S.
He said while Murray State isn’t ready to begin its own regional-sized conference, in the future he could see the University hosting an already-established conference.
“I would love and feel a lot of pride to see Murray State take on the task of trying to host a conference here,” Porter said. “Currently, however, it’s easier for (Alliance) to outsource that level of development.”
Saturday, members of Alliance will again hit the road and travel to Vanderbilt University for their annual day-long conference, Out in Front.
Story by Ben Manhanke, Assistant News Editor