GVSU LGBT Faculty and Staff Association works year-round to improve campus equity and inclusion

Image collage that makes a rainbow
Image credit - UComm Photo Team

Pride Month may be one month of the year, but the LGBT Faculty and Staff Association works behind the scenes year-round to constantly improve the university to be as equitable and inclusive as possible.

Throughout the academic year the LGBT FSA puts on a variety of events from a “welcome back” gathering at Books & Mortar in August to a “GAY-mer” night for members to gather and play board games.

The LGBT FSA also will often connect with students through the Milton Ford LGBT Center’s Queer Connections program, a mentorship program designed to match LGBTQIA+ undergraduate students with out faculty, staff, or graduate students to build connections, explore resources and work toward collaboratively constructed goals.

Kyle Felker is the current chair of the LGBT FSA, and he provided a glimpse into the work the association does and who is part of it.

Portrait of Kyle Felker, standing outside a building and smiling
Kyle Felker is the chair of the LGBT FSA.
Image credit - Amanda Pitts

What is the role of the LGBT FSA? What is the work that you do?

The FSA is one of several affinity groups for minority faculty and staff. We focus on advocacy and community-building for LGBTQIA+ faculty and staff. While we are supported financially by the Division of Inclusion and Equity, we function as a separate entity, with our own steering committee elected by the membership. Our mission statement is: “Our mission is to build a more welcoming and inclusive university community for LGBT faculty and staff through advocacy, education and networking.”

Most of what we do falls into two broad categories: advocacy and community-building. Our advocacy efforts focus on pushing initiatives that make campus a more welcoming place for LGBTQIA faculty and staff. An example here would be our efforts to get campus to establish a strategic plan for faculty and staff retention that focuses on retaining LGBTQIA+ staff. We also schedule regular social opportunities every month.

How many people are in the LGBT FSA?

Right now, we’ve got around 100 people on the mailing list. That’s obviously a very small subset of the LGBTQIA+ staff of GVSU, so recruitment and awareness are a major challenge for us.

What kind of events does the LGBT FSA help to put on?

We are always trying new things. We recently did an end-of-year picnic that went pretty well and ended up spinning off an informal group of queer folks interested in Dungeons and Dragons. We are planning a meet-and-greet next semester at Books and Mortar, a local bookstore with strong ties to the local LGBTQIA+ community. We’ve also done craft nights, board game nights, and a lot of other things.

Why do you believe the LGBT FSA is an important group for our campus community to have?

Having a group representing LGBTQIA+ faculty and staff that’s self-governing gives us a way to get our voices heard in ways they otherwise might not be. Board members are invited to participate in discussions and decisions that affect our community. 

The initial push to establish the group centered around domestic partner benefits. That was a crucial issue in 1996, when gay marriage did not exist, and many LGBTQIA+ folks had no other way to get their partners access to their health care benefits. Since then, we’ve broadened our mandate to advocate for a variety of issues that touch the LGBTQIA+ community at GVSU.

What impact has the LGBT FSA had on you personally?

I’ve met a lot of people that I otherwise would not have had any opportunity to interact with because they are in different departments with work processes that don’t intersect with me. It’s helped me to feel more connected.

For more information on the LGBT FSA please contact [email protected].


Sign up and receive the latest Grand Valley headlines delivered to your email inbox each morning.