Choosing which college to enroll in can be daunting. For LGBTQ students, how they are welcomed is often the deciding factor.
During “Longhorn Pride” this Friday, a visit organized by the Office of Admissions and the Gender and Sexuality Center, prospective students will be able to explore the University’s LGBTQ resources and meet with current queer-identifying students and alumni.
Visitors will include admitted students, high school students who have not started a college application and prospective transfer students. Students will hear presentations on LGBTQ campus support related to topics like housing, mental health and safety.
James Tolleson, assistant director of admissions and director of visitor services, said this is the first visit day focused on LGBTQ students at UT and in Texas. The purpose of the event is to help LGBTQ students make a better, more informed college decision, Tolleson said.
“As an office, but also as a University, (we want) to have a symbolic demonstration that absolutely we care about and value LGBTQA+ students,” Tolleson said.
The event’s planning comes a year after the University released its Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, which included efforts to increase LGBTQ inclusion, Tolleson said.
Advertising senior Arturo Compean, who identifies as gay, said it is important for UT to communicate resources available to LGBTQ students because it makes them feel accepted and cared for.
“Students who come from smaller towns like me … have to hide a major part of who we are until we can find a safe place,” Compean said in an email. “Giving students the chance and the knowledge that this is happening is a big deal. It reminds new students that the world isn’t always so bad, and that there are welcoming people in the world, and thankfully UT is one of them.”
As a graduate assistant in the admissions office, Sawyer Tedder said creating this event has been his dream since he started graduate school.
“The University’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan really did open a path to … having an event and a day like this where queer students can feel supported … not just when they got here but during the application process and through the college decision process,” said Tedder, co-coordinator of the event and an educational leadership and policy graduate student.
Tedder said he hopes the program will grow and set an example for other schools to include queer-identifying students in the whole admissions process.
“In a national picture, (our goal is) to kind of push the conversations for looking at how are we best serving queer students at the establishment of a university and hopefully trying to make a safer and nicer place for queer students to be,” Tedder said.
Xandria Hernandez, who will be a UT freshman later this fall, said she was interested in coming to the event because of her passion for LGBTQ advocacy. Hernandez said she was inspired seeing many future UT students being open about their identity in the UT Class of 2022 Facebook group.
“A lot of times LGBTQ students could feel out of place,” Hernandez said. “It’s nice to see that there (are) people that are comfortable enough with themselves that they will come out and make other people feel like they can find each other.”