By Lauren Dybel, ’17

This January, I participated in a five-day Branch Out trip to Charlotte, NC, where 7 new friends and I became immersed in LGBTQ culture, legislation, and activism. While many envision service-learning trips as hands-on, being a face in the community, with this trip we were able to express a different style of service work. Our time was spent with Campus Pride, a national organization dedicated to providing resources related to LGBTQ affairs to colleges and universities.

This nonprofit is largely an online resource, with an extensive website that includes lists, queries, and campaigns related to trans and queer needs. At the time of our visit, this organization had one full-time faculty member, the executive director Shane Windmeyer. Windmeyer – and other full-time employees – offer trainings and presentations related to the work of Campus Pride as well. Because the organization was transitioning – both between physical offices and between employees – Campus Pride utilized our assistance in very tangible ways. Together, we packed the office for an easy move, a huge service to a one-man organization. We compiled research on the trans* inclusion policies of universities across the country, then translated the information into the Trans Policy Clearinghouse on the Campus Pride website. We wrote event briefs and articles and released them via social media sites. We edited the 2015 annual review to be released. We reviewed and improved the Campus Pride Index and Sports Index, as well as researched the inclusion policies and practices of Greek Life organizations and HBCUs. Finally, in an effort to prepare for the upcoming inauguration, we downloaded more than 500 files from the U.S. Department of Education website related to religious exemptions to Title IX.

This nonprofit is largely an online resource, with an extensive website that includes lists, queries, and campaigns related to trans and queer needs. At the time of our visit, this organization had one full-time faculty member, the executive director Shane Windmeyer. Windmeyer – and other full-time employees – offer trainings and presentations related to the work of Campus Pride as well. Because the organization was transitioning – both between physical offices and between employees – Campus Pride utilized our assistance in very tangible ways. Together, we packed the office for an easy move, a huge service to a one-man organization. We compiled research on the trans* inclusion policies of universities across the country, then translated the information into the Trans Policy Clearinghouse on the Campus Pride website. We wrote event briefs and articles and released them via social media sites. We edited the 2015 annual review to be released. We reviewed and improved the Campus Pride Index and Sports Index, as well as researched the inclusion policies and practices of Greek Life organizations and HBCUs. Finally, in an effort to prepare for the upcoming inauguration, we downloaded more than 500 files from the U.S. Department of Education website related to religious exemptions to Title IX.

I detail the work we did not to receive recognition, but to communicate the idea that community impact is not always easily visible. Our group provided a service to this organization that is neither glamorous nor easily viewed as impactful for Charlotte or the network of LGBTQ students who utilize Campus Pride. Yet, to Windmeyer and the Campus Pride mission, our work and time were necessary and beneficial. The 400+ hours (a full work week for 11 people) provided to Campus Pride is time that the staff can spend on other necessary components of nonprofit growth, which Windmeyer utilized right along side us. In our week, we were able to provide an updated online resource to thousands of students and college campuses around the United States. While we may never be able to see or hear of students utilizing the site to determine where they will feel safest and be most respected by their campus communities, we know that this is the result of our time.

The work of Branch Out and other service-learning organizations are meant to be impactful to the community as well as the individual. During this trip, it was difficult to see the impact on the community – local and online – and this was a challenge students on our trip faced, for it made the trip feel less impactful on the individual. I know, however, that the trip had an impact on the community and our students. Our students know another resource for the movement for LGBTQ rights. We know the areas in which our campus can become more inclusive and ways to advance this agenda. We know the value of organizing in a community challenged by the topic at hand. We know the value of a sustainable, continued connection between Campus Pride and Branch Out at William & Mary. Our presence for only five days made the value of our time become more apparent, and we desired the opportunity to continue giving to this organization and social justice movement after the week. That, to me, is the impact of our time with Campus Pride.