This semester I wanted to leave one last love letter to UMBC.
As a graduating senior, this program was to be that letter, the first of its kind at UMBC, and I wanted it to succeed. I chose to create, coordinate and implement a campus wide program that partnered with six campus organizations and five off campus institutions to address the intersectionality of faith and sexual identity. I had to coordinate competing tasks, maintain strong lines of communication with various constituencies, and build ties to the surrounding Baltimore community.
It was one of the most overwhelming projects I have ever undertaken.
Here’s what worked:
1. Asking for help and utilizing my resources. Resources being the people around me- from students to faculty members to campus organizations to religious mentors. This program would not have happened without the amazing network of people who believed in my capabilities (when I didn’t), offered a helping hand in the form of monetary donations or a sounding board for ideas, and agreed to help out with the program even when they had never even met me (e-mail is a beautiful thing).
2. Budgeting time. I’m a super organized person but implementing the program meant meetings EVERY day, finding people to speak at the program, e-mails galore trying to coordinate speakers schedules and convincing them to come to UMBC, soliciting money, finding a graphic designer(s), and navigating UMBC bureaucracy on top of completing all of my coursework from six classes and job searching.
3. Redefining “success”. It can exist in multiple definitions and courses of action. Learning this was possibly the most important part of the program and one of my biggest accomplishments.
4. Learning to never stop and never give up. So many times I doubted that this program would come to fruition. I made a conscious decision to never stop trying to see this program come to life, in hindsight it was completely worthwhile.
What didn’t work:
1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Two words.
UMBC Bureaucracy. (More like Bureaucrazy, amirite?)
I was not prepared for the ridiculous hoops that certain organizations and offices expected. The frustration and walls I hit with this was overwhelming. After submitting a form three times and each time being told there was an error in the form, I gave up trying to work with a specific organization.
6. Trying to do the event mostly on my own. I had so much assistance in the form of resources but the actual grunt work of finding speakers, attending meeting upon meeting, coordinating nitty gritty details, etc. fell mostly on my shoulders.
So what would I do differently next time?
Without a doubt I would ensure more people helped me out with the details-such as finding, contacting and coordinating with speakers.
I would also ask more questions and speak up for myself. A certain person assisted me with a great deal of business arrangements for the event. This same person was also domineering and cruel when anything negative happened in the formation of the event. So yes, he was helpful when it came to the actual coordination of the event but working with a person like that is toxic.
Most of all, I would change the part where I lost track of *why* I created the event. I wanted to break down barriers associated with religion and the LGBTQ community. I wanted people to know that religion can be a safe, embracing space for the queer community and there are religious institutions that are actively working to create these spaces. I got so bogged down with the effort and stress in coordinating the event that for a long time all I saw was the desire to see the program happen, rather than the reason for the program’s importance.
As a religious person I felt that showing the inclusive nature of religion while debunking myths that religion rejects and judges, was of utmost importance.
At the event, when I heard each speaker explain how their religion, from Old Catholicism to Islam, acts an accepting and confirming place for persons of different identities, I remembered *why*.
My love letter was complete, every “i” dotted and “t” crossed.
Interested in further resources concerning religion and queer identity? Here’s a handy guide I compiled for the event!