Now in his 12th year at Adelphi, Scott Zotto '04, MSW '09, answers questions about his vision for leadership, validation and allyship within the LGBTQ+ community. He notes, “I'm inspired by the people I work with. Their drive, their passion, their tenacity: It's overwhelming."
What inspires you as a leader?
I’m inspired by the people I work with. Their drive, their passion, their tenacity: It’s overwhelming. They’re all volunteers. They don’t have to attend another meeting each week. They don’t need to add more work to their plates. But they do it. They show up each week for the LGBTQ+ community and I’m fortunate to bear witness to their generosity.
I’m also inspired when students step up and turn an idea into a full program. Here’s an example. Back in the fall, we learned of the event LGBTQ+ STEM Day, presented by the Physics Club and the Adelphi University ACM [Association for Computing Machinery] Student Chapter. The organizers, Gabi Vidad, Aaqil Khoja and Katie Gifford, attended a committee meeting to share their reasons for the event. At this virtual event, participants would learn a bit more about physics in a fun and interactive way, using lasers to create rainbows. So creative! But they also wished to raise awareness of the dearth of LGBTQ+ representation within the STEM fields. It was such an ideal program: Have fun while learning something new.
Another moment of true inspiration and validation. In June 2019, Adelphi marched in NYC Pride for the first time ever. It was the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and NYC was also the host of World Pride. So there were an estimated two million additional people in NYC at this time. While we marched, we would hear folks in the crowd shouting their support and we shouted back. But the best part of that long and hot seven-hour day was when we heard folks in the crowd shouting, “Adelphi’s my school! I went there!” That was so amazing to hear. We were so happy to be able to make them proud.
Finally, I have to say that what inspires me the most is people’s ability to change. Change their minds, their attitudes. Since the very first meeting of the LGBTQ+ and Allies Committee meeting in Dr. Carol Sussal’s [associate professor of social work] office in 2011, I’ve witnessed so many meaningful moments for our community. Some good, some bad, some incredible, some disappointing. The change is slow but it is happening. I’m hopeful for sure.
What is your inspiration for LGBTQ+ programming?
Our programs are born from necessity. An idea is brought to a committee meeting by either a committee member or a member of the AU community. Our committee considers the project and it is then assigned to a subcommittee to begin planning. It is so important to us that we do not create programs in a vacuum. We want our work to be relevant, creative and effective. To do that, we engage with the community and learn what is important to them. A perfect example of this took place last fall. One of our members, Mena Sposito [’10], asked the committee to consider producing a week’s worth of programming in November during Trans Awareness Week. The committee agreed and enlisted the help of several campus partners to design Adelphi’s first-ever Trans Awareness Week.
What do you hope participants will learn when they attend any of your events?
I’d like to think that participants learn what’s possible when a group of thoughtful individuals get together and create something from nothing. Again, I’m awed by everyone’s energy and commitment. Participants also learn a great deal of information on a range of topics, be it a Coming Out Day panel or LGBTQ+ Around the World. My hope for our events is that participants gain a bit more understanding for our community. And from that understanding comes acceptance.
What do you hope they walk away with?
I’d say “understanding” is what I want people to walk away with. Did our program allow for others to better understand the community? I’d like to think so.
How can people be allies of the LGBTQ+ community?
First, it is important to note that allies to the LGBTQ+ community need to be from within the LGBTQ+ community too. There is a great deal of homophobia and transphobia even within our own community and we have to identify it and work to change it. But to broaden the scope, strong allyship, true allyship means you stand up for members of the LGBTQ+ community. You show up for them, speak with them, speak for them when they can’t speak for themselves. It also means that you react to any hate directed toward the LGBTQ+ community as if it is directed toward you. It is not just a rainbow sticker on your door. It’s not just watching Ru Paul. It’s not just donating to the AIDS Walk. It’s a commitment and a promise and it isn’t a destination. Our allies keep learning with us and fighting with us.
LGBTQ+ Groups On Campus
Past events I’m so proud of:
Allies Conversation: Taking a Stand Even If It Hurts, With Transgender Rights Artist and Activist Imara Jones
September 30, 2020
Trans Awareness Week
Series of events in recognition of Adelphi’s first annual Transgender Awareness Week
National Coming Out Day Panel
October 12, 2020
World Pride NYC
Trans Day of Visibility: Butterfly: Una Transformacion
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
5:00 p.m.–6:30 p.m.
Lavender and Multicultural Graduate Celebration
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
6:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m.
First Friday: 2020–2021, A Year in Review
Friday, May 7, 2021
12:00 noon–1:00 p.m.
More info TBD
I’ve been working for Adelphi for 12 years, beginning in 2008, when I worked part time for the Adelphi University Performing Arts Center. One year later, I began volunteering as a counselor at the Student Counseling Center (SCC). In 2017, I was offered a full-time position with the SCC and have served as the coordinator of substance use counseling and prevention programming ever since. I’m also a two-time alum: ’04, MSW ’09. I’m a social worker by degree. And I have several roles at the University in addition to my full-time job:
- Co-chair of the LGBTQ+ and Allies Committee
- Co-adviser to the GSA (Gender and Sexuality Alliance)
- Co-adviser to the LGBTQA+ Student Empowerment Group
- Adviser to the LGBTQ+ and Allies Alumni Affinity Group
- Adjunct faculty representative to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP)
- Adjunct faculty in the Department of Theatre and the School of Social Work