Lavender Graduation

Photos by Janet Rogers, Strategic Marketing and Communication

‘You have a lot to be proud of’

The evening of May 11 was a time of reflection and recognition as students and friends were honored during the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s 12th annual Lavender Graduate Banquet and Pride Awards Celebration.

“You have a lot to be proud of,” Jonathan Pryor said during his welcome. “I’m truly honored to be one small part of a greater picture that contributes to doing what we can to making this campus a more inclusive space for all of our students.”

Pryor is assistant director for LGBTQIA programs and services in the UMKC Office of Student Involvement. His department organizes the annual banquet that celebrates LGBTQIA graduates and Pride Award recipients. This year’s banquet sponsors were the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, the Division of Diversity and Inclusion, the UMKC Student Activity Fee Committee, UMKC Libraries, UMKC Residential Life, UMKC LGBTQIA Student Council and the Office of Student Involvement.

“We know figuring out who we are is a journey, and college may or may not make that journey easier, especially when some people in the world constantly tell us that we’re not who we should be,” Pryor said. “I hope you know at UMKC and in our community, you have a home here. And here we believe your identities and successes deserve celebration.”

Roze Brooks (B.A. ’14) presented the alumni introduction. They (Brooks’ preferred pronoun) shared their college experience as being terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. But it was a journey of self-discovery.

“Home is not a physical place but a feeling of belonging,” Brooks said. “I would not be the person I am today without passing through UMKC.” Their journey continues as Brooks completes a master’s in higher education student affairs this month.

Continuing the message of hope and encouragement, UMKC Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer gave the keynote address. Her advice to students was to be good to themselves.

“You’ve developed knowledge and skill,” Bichelmeyer said as she congratulated graduates. “Your greater success is less obvious. This is a success of self.”

Bichelmeyer got personal with the audience. She shared stories of her own journey as a young person trying to find herself, to an adult accepting herself as being gay.

“I learned it’s impossible to have a healthy relationship with someone else if I don’t have a healthy relationship with myself,” Bichelmeyer said. “Our difference is a wonderful thing. Embrace your individuality.”

Following the dinner and remarks, scholarship winners were announced and Pride Awards were presented.

The LGBTQIA Scholarship went to Wolfgang Bucher. As a psychology and studio art student in the College of Arts and Sciences, Bucher has been an active member of Pride Alliance and has worked with the Gay and Lesbian Archives of Mid-America (GLAMA) organization, volunteering to assist in the collection of local artifacts. He recently organized the queer student art show, displayed at the most recent Pride Lecture reception.

The LGBTQIA Leadership Scholarships were presented to Al Ashby, Zen Berndt, Sierra Bone, Wolfgang Bucher, Charles Burt, Javiera Castro, Savannah Dean, Eun-Li Deem, Kevin Gibas, Brooks Kimmis, Binh Mai, Daniel Parnell, Conor Schulte and Kalaa’ Wilkerson. These scholarships support LGBTQIA students who actively contribute to the betterment of LGBTQIA students on campus through university or community leadership focused on equity.

The UMKC Pride Awards recognized members of the UMKC community who have contributed to the betterment of the LGBTQIA community through education, support, programming or activism.

Outstanding Faculty & Staff Awards

  • Kimberly Carlson, M.P.H., UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies instructor and evaluation manager for the National Clinical Training Center for Family Planning and the National HIV Prevention Capacity Building Assistance Provider Network Resource Center.
  • Julie Kohlhart, Ph.D., director of the Community Counseling and Assessment Services Clinic for the UMKC School of Education’s Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology Masters and Doctoral counseling programs.

Jim Wanser Award

  • Michelle Farrell, doctoral student in the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology in the UMKC School of Education, received the Jim Wanser Award. Farrell is one of the founders of Trans+, the first UMKC student organization dedicated to supporting the trans and gender-nonconforming community on campus. This award was named in honor of Jim Wasner and the legacy he made at UMKC. The award recognizes an individual who has volunteered hours of service to the UMKC LGBTQIA community or the greater Kansas City LGBTQIA community.

Outstanding Alumni Award

  • The Outstanding Alumni Award was presented to Dustin Cates, a conductor, singer, teacher and native of Kansas City, Missouri. He serves on the alumni board of the Conservatory of Music and Dance and the Chancellor’s LGBT Council. He holds a bachelor of music education from the UMKC Conservatory and a master of science in school leadership. This award was created to recognize one UMKC Alumni who works toward fostering an including community, at UMKC or in the community which they live and work.

Collaborative Excellence Award

  • GLAMA received the Collaborative Excellence Award. Since 2009, GLAMA has served as the home for the histories of Kansas City’s LGBT communities. GLAMA is made up of collections located in the LaBudde Special Collections Department at the Miller Nichols Library. This award was created to recognize departments or campus organizations whose collaborative efforts have resulted in important resources and services for LGBTQIA students, faculty, staff or community members.

LGBTQIA Student of the Year

  • Brooks Kimmis, fourth year medical student at the UMKC School of Medicine, received the LGBTQIA Student of the Year award. Kimmis has been an active student on campus, co-founding and serving as the president of the Hospital Hill LGBTQIA Health Alliance. He is also a recipient of a LGBTQIA Scholarship. This award was created to recognize one student for outstanding leadership, dedication and service within the university, or in the community, that has resulted in new or revitalized resources, services or programs for the LGBTQIA community.

At the end of the awards presentation, graduates were presented with their lavender stoles, which they will wear at commencement.

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