Group holds second GLBTA conference

by Andy Mannix

Students from all over Minnesota made the journey to Metropolitan State University in St. Paul this weekend for the Minnesota Out! Campus Conference.

MOCC, organized by the Minnesota GLBTA Campus Alliance, is the only gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual and ally event focused on uniting the myriad communities from college campuses around the state into a single weekend conference.

Now an annual event, the MOCC made its debut at Coffman Union in 2006.

Jess Helle-Morrissey, women’s service coordinator at Metropolitan State University and co-chairwoman of the GLBTA Campus Alliance, said the primary goal of the event was for students to leave with a greater sense of empowerment and affirmation of their own identities.

“The No. 1 thing is that they find their voice,” she said. “And feel like they can use that voice, and not feel ashamed of that.”

Helle-Morrissey said more than 150 people were expected to attend the conference over the weekend.

The conference, which ran all day Saturday and Sunday, was loaded with an agenda of seminars, guest speakers, film screenings and workshops that covered a range of topics including GLBT-ally training, eating disorders in gay men and interfaith services.

The MOCC also held an election for Minnesota GLBTA Campus Alliance coordinators and representatives.

Jacob Yunker, a sophomore with a double education major at the University’s Duluth campus, made the trek to St. Paul for the conference. Yunker said making connections and networking is a key element of the MOCC.

“There’s a lot of common ground here,” he said. “It’s nice to be in contact with other people like us around the state.”

Yunker said building a link between campuses has allowed students to share ideas and strengthen the GLBTA communities within individual colleges.

The MOCC was funded by donations from Minnesota businesses and colleges, including the University. The University donated between $2,500 and $4,999, according to the Minnesota GLBTA Campus Alliance’s Web site.

Di Schempp, a linguistics junior, volunteered at the conference for the second consecutive year.

Schempp said the event allowed GLBTA students from around Minnesota to get together and see how big their statewide community is.

“It provides a lot of visibility,” she said. “Being gay isn’t something you can see usually.”

University senior Ryan Kroening, co-chairman of the GLBTA Campus Alliance, said colleges across the state all have different GLBTA communities and connecting those communities is important.

The conference provides an opportunity for students to exchange resources and make friends that can give them support – something that isn’t always easy to find, Kroening said.

“I think it can help them get a perspective on their situation by meeting people who have gone through the same things they’re going through right now,” Kroening said. “It’s not an easy process.”