What is it like to be a gay person in the working world?
Answering this question, among others, is one of the goals of OutRoads, a new mentorship program at the University. The program will provide gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students the opportunity to meet and learn from GLBT alumni already established in the working world.
Brandon Lacy Campos, co-chairman of the Queer Student Cultural Center, said the main motivation behind the program is to provide students the same sort of safety nets after graduation as they found at the University.
So far, 11 students have picked up applications for OutRoads, which is in line with the groups’ desire to keep the program small the first year — roughly 10 to 15 students. The mentor-protÇgÇ matches will be made in early February with a kickoff event scheduled mid-month.
The program is the combined effort of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Program Office; the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Alumni Group of the University Alumni Association and the Queer Student Cultural Center. Although this is the first year in existence, the concept has been in development since the creation of the GLBT programs office five years ago.
“It’s an idea that has been on our plates since the beginning, but on the back burner because of funding and staff,” said Beth Zemsky, director of the GLBT programs office. “We needed the alumni group to be in place to have the capability to do something like this.”
The program aims to individualize each partnership. After the kickoff, the duos will meet according to their own schedules.
“What the students get out of the program is between them and the mentor,” Lacy Campos said. “The hope is that the students are able to get practical experience, and won’t go out blind.”
Some things the partnerships could deal with are questions relating to whether traditional professions are generally open to GLBT employees, if a company has a GLBT support group and how to incorporate GLBT student activities into a rÇsumÇ.
On the flip side, the mentors feel satisfied about giving back to the University community, said Tom Garrison, communications director for the Alumni Association. “People feel good about the investment.”
“Our experience is that there are tons of people wanting to be mentors,” Zemsky said. “GLBT alumni are jumping at the bit.”
Throughout the University there are 16 alumni mentorship programs with more than 1,000 mentor-protÇgÇ matches.
No mentorship program at the University has ever been discontinued. The aspiration of OutRoads is to maintain this trend.
“GLBT will definitely continue this program. It’s been a long-term goal,” Lacy Campos said. Should the program not be as successful as hoped for in its initial stages, the organizations will develop new strategies to ensure its survival.