Story by Ashley Traylor, Staff writer
Derrick McReynolds, associate director of Housing and Residence Life, said he was taken aback when the Murray State Alliance named him the Jane Etheridge Ally of the Year award recipient.
“It’s one of those things folks recognize you for that you really don’t see because for you, it’s just what you do,” McReynolds said. “It’s just a normal everyday thing.”
The Jane Etheridge Ally of the Year award is named after the former director of the Women’s Center, Jane Etheridge, and is given out to a faculty or staff member who advocates for LGBT students.
“The LGBT students who have interacted with Derrick always come back to this: he does it because it’s just who he is,” Jody Cofer Randall, coordinator of LGBT Programming, said. “You could say it’s his job to create inclusive spaces, but the way Derrick does it has sincerity to it.”
McReynolds has worked in housing for almost 12 years, recruiting and training resident assistants and residence directors. During this time, he has brought other people in to talk to RAs and RDs about creating a welcoming community, including Cofer Randall.
McReynolds said he is careful to make sure LGBT is part of the training because everyone should be treated as a person and always have someone to listen to them.
“For my staff to truly understand what is going on, I like to give them examples of how it can feel to see how their biases are closer than they think it is,” McReynolds said. “You’re not judging or talking about someone across the street or in another building or another state, sometimes you’re judging people on your staff that you may not know identify that way.”
Cofer Randall said McReynolds has a moving way of speaking with students, faculty and staff about the experiences of LGBT.
McReynolds is a good person for students to look up to because his identity means so much to him. His supporting peers and his faith have made him a successful person, Cofer Randall said.
McReynolds has always championed talking about diversity, which is one reason he is a role model for students, Cofer Randall said.
LGBT students told Cofer Randall it is hard on them because there are only a few openly LGBT faculty members at the university, and as part of your own development, you want a role model. McReynolds is that role model, Cofer Randall said.
“If this student needs your help, regardless of if they’re gay, if they’re black, if they’re green or if they’re an international student, the thing is they need you,” McReynolds said.
“I use my own experiences and my own identities to help students understand it’s not about their identities. They are a person, not a stigma,” McReynolds said.
“I’m always open to making sure I let those in that community know that I am person that they can come to,” McReynolds said. “I am not going to judge them.”
“I think Derrick will continue to do what he’s been doing and hopefully this award leads him to believe we acknowledge it. We acknowledge everything he has done,” Cofer Randall said.