Awarding the NMU ALLIES Scholarship for Advocacy
In 2001, during the This Decisive Season fundraising campaign, NMU faculty and staff worked with the NMU ALLIES organization to establish a scholarship to be awarded to individuals exemplifying advocacy for lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (LGBT) issues.
To be eligible, applicants are asked to document leadership, support or involvement in organizations, activities or issues that promote awareness and acceptance of the LGBT community at Northern Michigan University.
When contributions reached $25,000 in 2004, the scholarship was endowed and began providing awards of at least $1,000 from earnings on the principal. The scholarship has been providing financial support for inclusiveness leaders ever since.
One of this year’s recipients is Sheila Williams. Sheila currently serves on the Academic Affairs board of the Associated Students of Northern Michigan University (ASNMU) General Assembly. She is the public relations director for the board and serves as General Studies representative. She is currently a sophomore with an undeclared major, though she is considering marketing. Sheila is also in the Student Leader Fellowship Program.
Last year, as a member of ASNMU, Sheila led the researching, drafting and presentation of a proposal for gender-neutral housing.
Sheila says, “Receiving the ALLIES scholarship means that Northern Michigan is committed to their students. I worked on gender inclusive housing because I believe that every person deserves to feel both safe and comfortable where they live. Receiving a scholarship based on this work proves that the university is more than just talk, they also believe in diversity and inclusion. It shows an alignment between my beliefs and the beliefs of those in the administration. It makes me incredibly hopeful to be in a university committed to all of their students, and to embrace progress in the changing climate of our society.”
ALLIES is proud of the scholarship and the role it plays in raising awareness of the organization and LGBT issues. The recipients are announced every year at the Student Leadership Banquet.
Northern LGBT students can find safety and advocacy in ALLIES
Since the mid-1990s, NMU ALLIES has been raising awareness of sexual diversity issues and encouraging people to join others on the campus, in the region and on a national level working to support the gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) community.
The organization’s purpose is to provide support for the diverse needs of LGBT individuals on the campus and in the surrounding community by facilitating processes that ensure careful and thorough consideration of recommendations by LGBT people. ALLIES are “safe people” on the campus who have an understanding of sexual orientation, and who are comfortable with diversity of sexual orientation.
History professor Dr. Chet DeFonso has been teaching at NMU for 25 years and has seen ALLIES membership grow to over 360 since its beginnings.
According to DeFonso, “ALLIES is continuing its mission. We are excited about the opportunities for new generations of students who are entering a very different climate. However, challenges remain and the need for leadership on campus has not gone away.” DeFonso notes that much of ALLIES’ work centers on building awareness for LGBT issues through collaboration and facilitation.
In addition, the organization has become known for high-profile promotions, including Penny Wars and Red Shirt Day. This year, money raised from Penny Wars is used to support the NMU ALLIES scholarship. This October, $565 was donated through this effort. Fundraising over the years has also allowed ALLIES to establish a sustaining budget to help guarantee that the group will be able to provide resources for years to come.
As NMU continues its dedication to diversity and inclusiveness, the LGBT community will continue to thrive and expand and NMU ALLIES will continue to play a crucial role in helping to promote understanding and acceptance within and beyond campus borders.
If you would like to make a contribution to ALLIES, give online at nmu.edu/foundation/give or contact the NMU Foundation at 906-227-2627. For more information on NMU ALLIES, visit nmu.edu/merc/allies.