SUNY New Paltz offers several alumni events throughout the year in an effort to network, reconnect and offer a place for alumni to gather. These events have been anything from their annual alumni weekend in the fall to Alumni Night in the Theatre, which is coming up this weekend.
The first ever LGBTQIA+ Alumni Networking Event occured on Friday, April 20. The event was held at the Hudson Valley LGBTQIA+ Community Center located at 300 Wall Street in Kingston, NY.
Although there is a large pocket of alumni in the New York City area, it felt most fitting to hold the event locally. SUNY New Paltz partnered with the Hudson Valley LGBTQIA+ Community Center in the past and it was decided this location would work best.
The $5 registration fee included unlimited soft drinks and hors d’oeuvres for everyone who attended. A portion of the proceeds were donated to the center.
Emma Morcone, the LGBTQIA+ Coordinator and Deputy Title IX Coordinator at SUNY New Paltz, spearheaded the event. Her postion as the LGBTQIA+ Coordinator was created only a year and a half ago. As an alumna of SUNY New Paltz who took on this position, she felt that there needed to be an event where LGBTQIA+ alumni could connect in a safe and comfortable environment. She admitted she had absolutely no idea what to expect for this event knowing it was a possibility that only two people might show up.
“It was a little outside of the box,” Morcone said. “They do a lot of alumni events for general alumni, in specific regions, in specific departments.”
It was time for the alumni events to reach another community; the LGBTQIA+ community.
Alumni Engagement Coordinator Elizabeth Reyes explained that when they posted the event on the Facebook page, it got plenty of likes, even more than any of their past alumni networking events. It was clear that there was a desire for an event like this.
“I have seen a couple of alumni events but I am honestly really busy,” said attendee Alex Nowack. “I made sure to make time for this.”
The event had an extremely successful turnout with about 40 to 50 alumni ranging from graduating four months ago to 20 years and more. The center was full of conversation and smiling faces.
One of the attendees was Christy Stuart, who found out about the event from working at the Hudson Valley LGBTQIA+ Community Center.
“My whole world was thrown upside down the last couple of years,” said Stuart. “Now I am just embracing it.” Stuart graduated in 1989.
When Stuart graduated in 1989, LGBTQIA+ issues were not really talked about or were a part of the community.
“It was not as exciting as it is now,” Stuart said. It was the first alumni event that they attended.
“There might have been a lot of alumni that attended SUNY New Paltz before they came out of the closet, before they figured out who they were, figured out their identity,” Morcone said. “Therefore, maybe they weren’t involved in LGBTQIA+ activities at SUNY New Paltz.” I wanted to give those alumni specifically a place to connect with others who may have similar experiences.”
Cathy Kelly, alumna from ’93, discussed how she thoroughly enjoyed the link between the LGBTQIA+ community and alumni events. She was on the hunt to make sure she was on the email list for more events to come.
“When you are LGBTQIA+ there isn’t a large community, so it can feel isolated. At school there are clubs but once you graduate you can get disconnected,” Nowack said. “This networking event was groundbreaking and will set an example for later events.”
Morcone also encourages the LGBTQIA+ community and allies to come march in the Pride Parade on Sunday, June 3.