On April 15, the President’s Commission for Gender Identity & Expression and Sexual Orientation (GIESO) Night Out 2021 celebrated LGBTQIA+ advocacy and allyship, and those who mobilize diversity as activists at SRU. 

Vanessa Vought and Jim Eng are co-chairs of the GIESO community. GIESO’s mission is to address lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning and intersex issues to move SRU towards a more inclusive and supportive campus that is free of discrimination, intolerance and bigotry. 

SRU alumni Atticus Ranck spoke on his life coming out as lesbian and then coming out as transgender. He spoke on his job experiences and challenges, and how his mindset has shifted throughout life. The next guest speaker was Nick Daniels, an SRU alumni who graduated in 1991; Daniels was the first student to graduate as a dance major. The next guest speaker was SRU Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Abbey Zink who started in June of 2020.  

During the event, the GIESO “Breaking the Silence and “Student Leadership” award recipients were announced, recognizing the achievements of graduate and undergraduate students who inspire others to work towards positive change.  

The GIESO “Student Leadership” Award is intended to recognize the achievements of undergraduate and graduate students at SRU who have displayed outstanding leadership within the LGBTQIA+ community on campus or other communitiesThese recipients have also been an inspiration to their peers to work for positive change at SRU. The recipients of the 2021 GIESO Student Leadership Awards were Melissa Mackay and Rachel Glass. Mackay and Glass spoke on their time at SRU and the impact it has had on them.  

The GIESO “Breaking the Silence” award is given to individuals or organizations who improve the campus climate at SRU by confronting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as expressions through leadership, mentoring, role models and advocacy. These recipients also have made a significant contribution to the LGBTQIA+ community at SRU. The first recipient was the Interprofessional Education (IPE) committee. Participants who spoke for the IPE Collaborative were Jim Eng and Bonnie Siple. The next recipient was Kai Bright, a student and ambassador at SRU. Each recipient will receive a certificate and plaque for their accomplishments. 

The event went on to recognize the graduates of those who have advocated for the LGBTQIA+ community on and off campus. Each senior graduate will receive a Rainbow certificate of recognitiontassel and stole. The graduates recognized were Mackay, Jennifer FinamoreKristina Italia, Taylor Reilly, Madison Skelton, Natalie VecchioDesolina Valenti and Rachael Klipa. 

Vought shared the importance of holding the GIESO Night Out event virtually to give that recognition to the graduating seniors who have worked so hard.  

“The Night Out event is really special and important for us to be able to just take a moment to recognize our students for all the hard work they have done,” said Vought. “Going through college is already stressful and difficult, but gradating college in the middle of a pandemic is a huge accomplishment. So, it is really important for us to continue to do the event virtually.” 

GIESO Night Out ended with a video put together by GIESO members congratulating the seniors. Faculty of SRU spoke to congratulate the graduating seniors and share words of wisdom. 

Congratulations to all graduating seniors who have advocated and helped create SRU a more positive place for the LGBTQIA+ community. 

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Morgan is an integrated marketing communication major. This is her second semester on The Rocket staff as assistant campus life editor. Previously, she was part of the Women’s Lacrosse team at SRU for two years and was an editor for her high school yearbook sophomore to senior year. After graduation, she hopes to work on a marketing team in the DMV area. Outside of The Rocket, Morgan is also on staff for the athletic communication department.


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