Excellence Series educates staff about transgender issues

By Rachel Huck | 10/7/15 11:32pm

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Kathy Coffey, attends the Excellence Series:Trans Inclusive Campus on Oct. 6 in Allendale MI. Faculty members were given the opportunity to learn about become allies with transgender students.

by Kasey Garvelink / Grand Valley Lanthorn

This year, Grand Valley State University’s human resources department is working to develop leadership skills in staff and faculty members through an educational program known as the Excellence Series.

The Excellence Series consists of a number of interactive, on-campus workshops designed to help staff members meet leadership, professional and developmental goals while at the university.

On Tuesday, the program held a workshop that aimed to raise participants’ awareness of the spectrum of transgender identities and expressions, as well as address common issues faced by transgender students and employees.

Emily Nisley, associate professor and counselor at the counseling and career center at Grand Rapids Community College, presented at Tuesday’s workshop.

“One goal is to raise awareness of gender diversity and common issues faced by transgender students and employees,” Nisley said. “Another is to build related skills, including challenging assumptions about gender and using language respectfully.”

The human resources department at GVSU has worked closely with the administrative professional committee, the professional development subcommittee and various other focus groups in developing these leadership development programs. This collaborative effort has produced a series of breakthrough workshops and seminars to be offered throughout the academic year.

“A third goal is to increase knowledge of relevant best practices and of current policies and resources at GVSU,” Nisley said. “The overarching goal is to help participants contribute to a more transgender-inclusive campus.”

Tuesday’s presentation aimed to educate attendees about the best possible ways of fostering a campus where all students, employees and faculty feel fully welcomed and accepted.

“If you want to be an ally to transgender people, the first step is to educate yourself,” Nisley said. “Seek information from reputable resources like the websites of the National Center for Transgender Equality or the American Civil Liberties Union. Participate in ally training programs like those offered by the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center on campus. Attend talks by transgender speakers, read articles and books by transgender authors and listen to the stories of the transgender people you meet.”

The next event in the Excellence Series will focus on bias incident protocol training, presented by members of the GVSU Team Against Bias. This part will focus on what a bias incident is and what to do if you experience or witness one.

Team Against Bias is a diverse group of faculty, staff and students at GVSU. The group was created to review information regarding bias incidents and implement strategies to educate and engage the campus community in recognizing and preventing future bias incidents. The team is committed to making certain that all faculty, staff and students know what a bias incident is and know how to use the protocol for reporting such incidents.

The training aims to be both interactive and practical.

Bias incident protocol training will take place Oct. 13 from 3:30 p.m. until 5 p.m. in Room 340 of the Bicycle Factory on the Pew Campus.

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