The new LGBTQ+ and Allies Affinity Group joins the Multicultural Chapter to give our alumni with shared interests a place to connect, network and find support.
When Adelphi’s newest alumni group, the LGBTQ+ and Allies Affinity Group, marched in the 2019 WorldPride parade in New York, people lining the route cheered.
“That’s my school. I went there,” Scott Zotto ’03, MSW ’09, heard people shouting. Zotto, a co-founder of the group and one of the dozen alumni who marched, says the moment was sweet.
“It made us proud,” he said. “The response was a sense of validation. It was about being seen and heard, and that’s what we want this group to do.”
Formed in June 2019, the LGBTQ+ and Allies Affinity Group is one of two alumni groups at Adelphi embracing diversity by bringing together graduates with common interests. Alumni of color make up the other group, the Multicultural Chapter (MCC).
The groups’ goals are similar: To give alumni with a common denominator a place to connect and to help current students through mentoring by providing scholarships and by offering connections to a network of Adelphi graduates.
“We’re in the business of building communities,” said Jodie Sperico, executive director of alumni relations at Adelphi. “There are a lot of transformations in college. If you can provide a place for people to be their best selves, we’re all better off.”
The groups reflect Adelphi’s diversity. Around 45 percent of Adelphi’s students are students of color. Another indicator of the range of the University’s students is that around 100 of the 1,000 or so first-year students for 2019-2020 attended an LGBTQ+ mixer sponsored by the University this year, according to Zotto. The turnout convinced him that the LGBTQ+ and Allies alumni group will grow its membership beyond the 50 or so people it had at launch.
“Groups that focus on a specific set of alumni and students can help them in ways a general alumni group cannot,” said Adam Visconti, associate director of residential life and housing at Adelphi and co-founder of the LGBTQ+ and Allies Affinity Group.
“People who are LGBTQ+ have been underrepresented and marginalized throughout history, ” he continued, “and a group dedicated to their identities can create a stronger sense of belonging.”
Visconti pointed out that the niche group can also help alumni who are LGBTQ+ navigate the world around them.
“One of our alumni reached out to us about some instances of workplace discrimination she was experiencing,” he said. “We were able to help her by serving as a sounding board and by connecting her with resources and other support systems closer to her.”
The LGBTQ+ and Allies group is planning to bring a TV personality to campus to discuss his experiences in his profession. “We want to bring culturally relevant speakers who are important to our community,” Zotto says. “It gives our students a glimpse of their own future.”
The group is also working with Adelphi’s Lavender Graduation, an annual celebration right before Commencement to honor students who are LGBTQ+, and also plans to have a presence on campus for October’s Coming Out Day and LGBTQ+ History Month.
The Multicultural Chapter, founded in 2003, has more than 550 members nationwide. The group works with the University to award four scholarships to students of color endowed by Marc Strachan ’81, chairman of ADCOLOR. One scholarship is for students of color who run into money problems while they’re at Adelphi.
“There was a student in his senior year who was having financial issues,“ Sperico says. “The scholarship gave him the money he needed to finish his degree.”
Dozens of MCC alumni have mentored students. “Getting tips on skill sets you need to be successful as a person of color in worlds that are white-dominated is so important,” says MCC’s acting president and co-chair, Isiah Hall ’06, MBA ’08, who is a senior manager for compliance at the National Urban League. “A mentor can help a student understand how to become more prepared for life outside of his degree.”
Both groups work with Adelphi on events for students and alumni. MCC has an annual Kwanza celebration, and the group holds a meeting for students and alumni of color each year during Spirit Week where they can meet, greet and mingle.
Alumni and students in the multicultural and LGBTQ + communities aren’t the only ones who benefit from these alumni groups. MCC and the LGBTQ+ and Allies group educate the larger student population, too, Sperico said.
“Diversity makes Adelphi stronger. We’re challenging students to think differently, to be open-minded and to be respectful of people who are different than they are.”
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