UM Queer Homecoming soirée celebrates diversity and inclusion
Homecoming has a brand new event for 2016 and it may be the first event of its kind in Canada. Queers, Cheers and Homecoming Years, a soirée for LGBTTQI* alumni and friends will feature delicious food, drinks and music by dj and producer Joe Silva.
The event will also serve as an opportunity to network and engage in conversation around LGBTTQI* issues and perspectives. Special remarks will be given by alumnus Mitchell Haw who came out during his time at the University of Manitoba.
Haw graduated with his Engineering degree in the spring of 2016. He says his time at the U of M helped shape who he is, especially the three years he lived in residence.
“Looking back, I cannot imagine what my university experience may have looked like without being a part of this community,” says Haw. “The diversity, culture, and inclusivity in residences is absolutely incredible and I consider myself very lucky to have lived and worked with these students and staff. In fact, I know that my coming out process would have been much more difficult had I not been supported by my friends, fellow staff, supervisors, and students in residences.”
Haw was also the inaugural recipient of the Jeff Kushner and Randall McGinnis Scholarship for LGBT Engineering students, the first of its kind in Canada.
Kushner graduated from the Faculty of Engineering in 1987. He and his partner Dr. Randall McGinnis generously donated to the University of Manitoba last June, establishing a scholarship for LGBT undergraduate students in the Faculty of Engineering
Haw says he feels very honoured by Kushner’s and McGinnis’ gift to the U of M.
“It is incredible that Jeff and Randall have initiated and funded this scholarship for LGBT students and I greatly admire their compassion and generosity.”
Kushner and McGinnis are aware that LGBT students face unique challenges as they pursue certain fields of study, and they wanted to provide encouragement to students in these circumstances. Specifically, Kushner wanted to support academic excellence in a group not usually thought of as being part of the mainstream engineering community.
“I believe that this will strengthen the university as an institution by fostering excellence in its students – in this case by supporting LGBT students who possess both academic strength and leadership potential and who are in a faculty where they are traditionally underrepresented and may therefore face unique challenges,” Kushner said when the scholarship was announced last year.
As is the case with nearly every financial award, the Jeff Kushner and Randall McGinnis Scholarship helped Haw to focus on his studies while simultaneously reducing his dependence on loans. The award also provided a less obvious benefit says Haw.
“I had an opportunity to email back and forth with Jeff. Through this exchange I learned a bit about both Jeff and Randall and about some of their experiences as gay students and working professionals,” says Haw. “I found it both comforting and inspiring to learn of their personal and professional successes, particularly because I have few role models who are gay.”
He adds that it’s important that members of the LGBTTTQI* community advocate for those within it, as well as for people in other minority groups. Events like Queers, Cheers and Homecoming Years does just that, paying tribute to diverse individuals and their backgrounds.
“I commend U of M for taking the opportunity to celebrate the diversity of both students and alumni with this event,” says Haw.
Tickets for Queers, Cheers and Homecoming Years are $25 for alumni or $5 for current students. They are available to purchase online or at Answers in University Centre. Tickets will also be available at the door.