Pride at Oxy

The Pride List at Oxy is a compilation of stories from faculty and staff who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community at Occidental College.

Storytelling is a meaningful part of the LGBTQIA+ experience and can be used to enhance connectedness, collective care and action. Most importantly, the Pride List is meant to affirm students as they navigate their own LGBTQIA+ experiences throughout their time at Oxy. The Intercultural Community Center seeks to honor every person’s journey, no matter where they are in their process.


Phillip Ayoub (he, him, his)

Associate Professor of Diplomacy & World Affairs

Describe your role at the College. What do you love most about it?

I love the privilege I have to teach and interact with brilliant students, alongside reading and writing on topics I care about. It's a wonderful career to have.

How has your LGBTQIA+ identity informed your work?

My LGBTQIA+ and immigrant identities shape my work in every way, from what I research to how I teach and navigate my daily life. I hope that in many cases these identities also lead to sincere empathy and understanding when my students or the communities I study need support.

What brings you Pride?

I am proud of the work my communities do to make our societies more inclusive and for the spaces they have carved out in the overwhelmingly cis- and hetero-normative social structures in which we operate.


Becker Grumet (they, them, theirs)

Jewish Student Life & Interfaith Coordinator, Office of Religious and Spiritual Life

Describe your role at the College. What do you love most about it?

My passion lies in looking at everything I do through the lens of intersectionality and coalition building. As a queer Jew, I have always been interested in how spirituality, sexuality, and gender can work together to build positive identity formation or repair harm that was done in one of these areas. I also love working with students of various Jewish, interfaith, and political identities. My favorite experiences at Oxy have been leading interfaith retreats to beautiful locations in Idyllwild and Frazier Park where students have come together to navigate interfaith conversations and share ritual with one another.

How has your LGBTQIA+ identity informed your work?

My queerness brought me to work in spiritual life. As a college student at USC, I struggled with how to live a Jewish identity when my temple's rabbi in the early 2000s relayed that he would not be accepting of queer Judaism. I was also outed by peers at the Jewish summer camp I attended as a young teen and did not return to camp. When I was asked to run a Jewish club at USC for queer folks, I did not know where to start. An affirming rabbi at USC Hillel welcomed our club with open arms and suggested we apply for a campus grant to do something together. That grant funded a weekend interfaith retreat for students on the intersections of spirituality, sexuality and gender that would continue for the next 5 years. Those retreats were the foundation of the work I do today as a Jewish and queer professional. 

What brings you Pride?

In 2018, while working at Oxy, I came out as non-binary. I continue to be a very proud member of the non-binary/transmasculine community both at Oxy and in my personal life. I have navigated the worlds of gender affirming surgery, hormones, and legal name change, and would be more than willing to offer support in these areas for the rest of the Oxy community to the best of my ability. I am also now on the path to becoming a LGBTQIA+ Affirmative Marriage and Family Therapist, and am very proud to be in training to join the Los Angeles queer mental health community.

How can students reach you, if they'd like to connect?

rgrumet@oxy.edu


Ron Buckmire (he, him, his)

Associate Dean for Curricular Affairs, Director of the Core Program and Professor of Mathematics

Describe your role at the College. What do you love most about it?

I’ve been on the faculty since 1994 so I have a loooong relationship with Oxy. All the time I have been at the College, it has been a welcoming place for LGBTQ+ folks, and many of us have made sure that it remains that way.

How has your LGBTQIA+ identity informed your work?

There are not that many Black, gay mathematicians in the country, so I am used to being “the only one in the room” in many different settings. However, at Oxy, I feel like multiple aspects of myself are welcomed and included in whatever room I am in. That could be a Zoom room, a classroom, a room with other deans or a room with prospective students.

What brings you Pride?

I’m proud to represent multiple axes of diversity at Oxy, and at my age, I am willing to serve as an example to students that you can and should bring your whole self to all your endeavors, because only then will you proudly flourish!

How can students reach you, if they'd like to connect?

ron@oxy.edu


Maureen Royer (she, her, hers)

Associate Vice President, Individual Giving

Describe your role at the College. What do you love most about it?

I am very fortunate to serve as the Associate Vice President, Individual Giving. What I love most about it is that it allows me to connect with so many extraordinary people in our fantastic Oxy community; students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and friends.

How has your LGBTQIA+ identity informed your work?

While I came out to my family and my community of friends when I was 22 years old, getting to the place where I am fully out and proud has been a process. My lesbian identity allows me to view my work through the lens of what is ethically and morally right when it comes to ensuring that I help foster a culture of belonging.

What brings you Pride?

It brings me great Pride just to be a part of the queer community, and to serve as a role model for folks who are questioning whether to come out and join us. It also brings me Pride to be a femme lesbian and to show the world that "queer" comes in every shade of the rainbow.

How can students reach you, if they'd like to connect?

mroyer@oxy.edu. I would love to hear from you!


Broderick Fox (he, him, his)

Professor of Media Arts & Culture

Describe your role at the College. What do you love most about it?

I teach courses in both media theory and production practices. I love the opportunity to think through the pressing representational questions of our time with students in the classroom as those opportunities for dialogue directly inform and stimulate my own writing and making.

How has your LGBTQIA+ identity informed your work?

Operating from the starting point of difference affords queer individuals a unique position from which to question norms, both cultural and personal. Through adversity, we are forced to create our own definitions of relationship, love, family, community and self, frequently driving larger social change in the process. My identity as a queer man and the stories of other LGBTQIA+ and marginalized individuals are re-centered in my media works and critical writing. These priorities reflect my commitment as a maker, scholar, and professor to question and reinvent the forms and functions of media by challenging traditional ideas of truth-telling and representation.

What brings you Pride?

I have deep pride in all my students for their intellectual, political and personal courage. I’m also proud of Oxy as an institution that supports such growth. In that sense, I often think of the liberal arts as being inherently queer: developing intersectional and interdisciplinary frameworks to unpack perceived norms and manifest alternative possibilities.

How can students reach you, if they'd like to connect?

bfox@oxy.edu


Haley Mitchell (she, her, hers)

Head Coach of Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving and Director of Aquatics

Describe your role at the College. What do you love most about it?

As a coach I love getting to work with an eclectic group of young people to be competitive in the pool and have a lot of fun along the way. As the director of aquatics I love facilitating a space where the community can swim and hang out by the pool.

How has your LGBTQIA+ identity informed your work?

Embracing my whole identity as a lesbian has made me more confident in every aspect of my life, including coaching.

What brings you Pride?

It brings me pride to create a team culture and a space where people feel safe to be their most authentic selves.

How can students reach you, if they'd like to connect?

Students are welcome to email me to connect at hmitchell@oxy.edu.


Raul Navarro (he, him, his)

Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Describe your role at the College. What do you love most about it?

I not only teach introductory and advanced organic chemistry courses, but I also maintain a research program where I work alongside undergraduates to develop more efficient strategies to forge the bonds that give rise to bioactive natural products. My favorite part of being a professor is that I get to serve as the role model and student mentor that I feel like I never had—it's an exciting and fulfilling experience to see my students (both in the classroom and in my lab) really hone in on what they find exciting about science, and to start to take that interest into a definitive career path.

How has your LGBTQIA+ identity informed your work?

Over the years that followed my first research experience as an undergraduate, I began to develop and appreciate my identity as a LGBTQ-identified person and what that means in the STEM world. Although it's clear that science benefits tremendously from a diverse range of perspectives, LGBTQIA+ representation in science remains a challenge. 

For me, being a scientist provides an opportunity to not only dive into data, analysis and making new discoveries, but it also serves as a platform to highlight and promote the human beings that make it possible. It's important for me as a scientist to continue to represent the community and to help promote an inclusive research atmosphere, which benefits both the individuals advancing the science and the scientific advancement itself.

What brings you Pride?

That despite all of the progress that’s left to be made in regards to the LGBTQ community in STEM, that I can unabashedly celebrate all of who I am—as Latino, as gay—in my shoes as a scientist—whether that takes the form of mentoring LGBTQ students or listening to my favorite Britney playlists in the lab!

How can students reach you, if they'd like to connect?

rnavarro@oxy.edu


Shanda Ness (she, her, hers)

Director of Athletics

Describe your role at the College. What do you love most about it?

I love many things about my job but perhaps what I enjoy the most is having the opportunity to support student-athletes during competitions. I know how much effort goes into game day so I try to get to as many contests as possible.

How has your LGBTQIA+ identity informed your work?

Going through my own journey of acceptance has helped me to realize how important it is that we value each individual, and their unique experiences and circumstances. Oftentimes in sports the focus is solely on the team, but I recognize the importance of each individual that makes up the team.

What brings you Pride?

I take great pride in being a part of an accepting community where I feel comfortable being my authentic self.


Kevin Urstadt (he, him, his)

Professor of Cognitive Science

Describe your role at the College. What do you love most about it?

I love interacting with the students in discussions related to my field, especially topics that extend beyond the classroom. Sometimes the best learning experiences can come from the tangential discussions that bring the nitty-gritty lecture details back to real-life examples.

How has your LGBTQIA+ identity informed your work?

Both my identity and my time at Oxy have made me more aware of disparities to be mindful of in my teaching approaches, especially when it comes to equity in assessment and giving fair chances. Additionally, I have included some neuroscience perspectives on identity in a few of my courses. Lastly, I want to serve as a good role model for LGBTQIA+ students interested in pursuing STEM learning and careers.

What brings you Pride?

Similar to the last point, I want to serve as a role model for teaching and research in the STEM fields, as LGBTQIA+ representation is still lagging in those fields. I want students to know that they can come to me for discussion about future education and career directions, and I aim to inform them about how to address hurdles they may face in general and/or due to their identity.

How can students reach you, if they'd like to connect?

Email is always a good bet. Send messages to kurstadt@oxy.edu.


Jennie Marie Petrini (she, her, hers)

Director of Advancement Operations

Describe your role at the College. What do you love most about it?

I’m the Director of Advancement Operations and I love problem solving, as well as being of service to my colleagues.

How has your LGBTQIA+ identity informed your work?

I’ve been able to provide encouragement, acceptance and positive interactions with others who have felt isolated and pressured to behave in gender-stereotypical ways.

What brings you Pride?

Having a queer child brings me tremendous pride.

How can students reach you, if they'd like to connect?

jpetrini@oxy.edu


Erik Quezada (he, him, his)

Director of the Neighborhood Partnership Program

Describe your role at the College. What do you love most about it?

I'm the Director of the Neighborhood Partnership Program, a special partnership between Oxy and Los Angeles Unified School District, and I'm also the chair for the First-Gen Coalition, a support system made up of community members from various departments and divisions at the college. Our goal is to permanently establish first-gen support at Oxy.

I love that I get to combine my desire for collaboration and partnership both inside and outside of Oxy—all in an effort to support students with underrepresented and minoritized identities. It's amazing to see what a team of people can do when they combine their efforts in a shared, common vision.

How has your LGBTQIA+ identity informed your work?

I did not come out until my late teens/early 20s; it was a process! I remember how much mental effort and emotional labor it took for me to stay closeted. Being closeted did not leave room for much else in my mind when I was constantly aware of my surroundings, my interactions with anyone around me, my actions, my voice, my mannerisms, what foods I ate, what music I listened to—it was exhausting!

Looking back at it now, my closeted life was definitely a defense mechanism—it was a prime example of the societal expectations placed on men (of color) and how we should behave and act, both in private and in public. Once I did come out, I realized what a tremendous relief I felt. I was finally living my true, authentic life.

Being an Oxy alum and reflecting on my lived experiences allows me to have empathy for students and the daily struggles they experience, both inside and outside of Oxy. My roles at Oxy are important to me, and I use them to try and advocate as well as be a mentor and resource to all students I come across. 

What brings you Pride?

I'm proud of the struggles the generations before us went through and survived that allowed us to live life as our authentic selves.

I'm proud when I see a queer couple holding hands and showing affection in public.

I'm proud of youth that are coming out of the closet so much sooner than folks of my generation, or the generation before me.

How can students reach you, if they'd like to connect?

I'm always available by email and phone. equezada@oxy.edu or (323) 259 2430.


Brandon Lehr (he, him, his)

Associate Professor of Economics

Describe your role at the College. What do you love most about it?

I am a professor in the economics department. I love working with and learning from Oxy students.

How has your LGBTQIA+ identity informed your work?

My identity has informed my interest in questions of social policy and equity.

What brings you Pride?

I am proud to be part of the queer community.

How can students reach you, if they'd like to connect?

lehr@oxy.edu


Viktor Kerney (he, him, his)

Associate Director of Student Leadership, Involvement, and Community Engagement (SLICE)

Describe your role at the College. What do you love most about it?

I am Associate Director of SLICE for Orientation & Student Success. I enjoy working with students and student leaders.

How has your LGBTQIA+ identity informed your work?

My identity keeps me aware of the struggles many queer POCs face on a regular basis. It helps me discover ways to provide a safe space and opportunities for our students to thrive.

What brings you Pride?

Being free to be myself.

How can students reach you, if they'd like to connect?

vkerney@oxy.edu

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