Pride at McIntire is back. A resource for both pre-Comm and current Commerce students who identify as a member or ally of the LGBTQ+ community, the student organization has returned after a dormant period.
First established at the Comm School by Santiago Naranjo (McIntire ’17), the affinity group served an important purpose at Rouss & Robertson Halls and beyond before it had temporarily ceased functioning.
Enter Sterling Clay (McIntire ’21), who saw an opportunity to revive the group dedicated to promoting a diverse and inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ UVA students interested in exploring careers in business.
“When I transferred into McIntire from Northern Virginia Community College, I was eager for ways to get involved in the community and engage with students outside of the classroom. One of the ways in which I envisioned doing this was by getting involved with the LGBTQ+ groups on Grounds,” Clay recalls.
He spoke with McIntire’s Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Rebecca Leonard and ODEI and discovered that Pride had been inactive—and would need to be reapproved as an official contracted independent organization (CIO). Clay got to work, acquiring approval and reestablishing the organization. Now considering himself the “re-founder” of the group, the Pride President immediately began planning employer-sponsored events for the newly relaunched organization.
“This process has proven to be one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had at UVA, as it’s given me the ability to create something at McIntire that will have a lasting impact on the community for many years to come,” he says.
A Necessary Network
As Vice President of Finance for the group, Ryan Sellers (McIntire ’22) says that a major goal is to connect with more people to help grow the group, raise visibility, and get it better established.
Though budgetary concerns have been few since coronavirus restrictions have cut down on most in-person events, Sellers says there’s still plenty to be done, and the work he’s undertaken to develop Pride at McIntire has greatly contributed to his overall Comm School experience, refining his skill set as he networks with likeminded individuals and allies—and further energizing his passion for promoting LGBTQ+ acceptance.
Sellers says the group’s work is important to him personally because of his commitment to helping the School become increasingly inclusive by eliminating barriers to understanding and empathy.
“I want to create a positive environment where LGBTQ+ people can support each other. Furthermore, I want to break down common stereotypes and inform McIntire students about major LGBTQ+ issues so they too can become allies and support our community,” Sellers says.
Despite its size, the group has already held its first successful major event: a personal finance and investing workshop, with members of Bessemer Trust providing a presentation on budgeting.
“We were also joined by members of the Black Commerce Student Network (BCSN) and Latinx Student Network (LSN). This provided members of our organizations with tools they can use moving forward in their lives to apply proper budgeting techniques, in addition to serving as a valuable networking opportunity,” Clay says. “We work to connect students with employers that don’t just promote diversity within their workplace, but rather, have it as an active part of the culture within the organization.”
The inaugural event was followed by a case interview workshop and networking session hosted with Capital One for members of the group, with BCSN and LSN. Later in the month, Pride will join its sister clubs yet again for an information session with Dominion Energy employees representing diversity and inclusion efforts at the company. Pride at McIntire is also planning a general body meeting for Oct. 26 from 6 to 7 p.m., where they aim to gather input from new members on events and initiatives for the spring 2021 semester.
It’s been said that it’s important to bring your true self to work in order to thrive. For Commerce students in Pride at McIntire, that idea rings especially true.
“I grew up in Point Clear, AL, an area where being myself was something I was told to be ashamed of,” Clay says, noting that he was fortunate to have a very accepting family and group of friends; he realizes that it’s not the same way for everyone. “Before I began my college career, I was under the impression that to be successful in business, I needed to conform to a traditionally conservative culture in which being my authentic self was acceptable only behind closed doors. This makes the work I do at PAM very important to me personally, as I want to destigmatize the concept of being ‘out’ in the professional environment and provide a voice for LGBTQ+ students on Grounds who are interested in business but fear the perceived consequences of being themselves.”
Sellers’ goal for the org sounds simple, and hopefully his efforts and those of his fellow group members can do their part to achieve it: “As an LGBTQ+ individual, I want everyone to be proud for being who they are and feel included.”