A fresh name isn’t the only new thing the Pride Alliance Center received this academic year. Meet Emma Welch, the Pride Alliance Center’s new coordinator. With degrees from Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa, it was only a matter of time before Welch came to work at the University of Iowa — completing her tour of Iowa public higher education. We sat down together to discuss her new role and passion for supporting the LGBTQ+ community.
Can you tell me about your current role?
My current role is coordinator of the Pride Alliance Center — lovingly referred to as the Pride House — and my role encompasses a few different perspectives of the student experience on campus. So my number one is student support and programing, whether that’s [if] student staff members put together a panel, or if they bring someone from off campus or host some sort of discussion — I have a hand in advising that. I’m also on several planning committees for Iowa City Pride, QUEERnival for next year, and I’m going to be on the committee for The Mirage. There’s a lot of other behind the scenes things, but as far as presence on campus, its affirming students’ identity, making sure that they feel safe here, that they know that this is a place to come and be authentically yourself.
I’m so passionate about serving the community in a very representative way.
What was your career path like up until this point?
I went to Iowa State for my undergrad and earned my BS in psychology. I worked a couple of years at Lutheran Services of Iowa, then I completed my masters at University of Northern Iowa for social psychology. At UNI I was a graduate team member at the Gender and Sexuality Services center. That experience of serving fellow students and spreading awareness of the community to members at that university was what really clicked in my mind that I can follow a career in this passion of supporting folks within the LGBTQ+ community.
I identify with the community and had a bad experience at a previous workplace years ago where a supervisor totally wrote me off, and said that if I was going to choose this lifestyle then I was going to have to get used to people talking about me behind my back. So because of an experience I had, any part that I can play in reducing the potential of that happening to someone else, that’s what I want to do.
What is your favorite part about working with the Pride Alliance Center?
My favorite part is the students. Being able to hear those student voices and see the passion they have for their own development but also the passion they utilize to enhance others’ development as well. The essence of support that students have for one another and that the administration has for students. It’s really been awesome to see and be a part of conversations with other staff members where you can tell that they have a real interest and they’re committed to making changes.
What about challenges you may have faced?
Nine to five is when I’m here, sometimes later for activities. One of the challenges with that timing is that I don't have the opportunity to meet as many students as I would like. This center specifically, is most populated in the evenings when I’m not here. That’s a challenge because I’m so passionate about serving the community in a very representative way.
We just want to make sure that our presence is loud and proud on campus because we’re loud and proud.
Can you tell me a bit about the Pride Alliance Center name change?
[It] was a long process. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from the name change. The conversation had started before I got here, so when I got here they were in the final process of deciding the name. It’s been interesting to see student conversations of the name change, to see students feel their autonomy and understand that we support their autonomy to have their own opinions and viewpoints.
Is there anything that you want to build upon or change in your new role?
As a department we really want to enhance our presence on campus, especially since we are separate from the east side of campus. We want to make ourselves more present with orientation and make sure that students who don’t necessarily have classes out here understand we’re here and understand what we’re for. Since I’ve started, there have been a couple of students who’ve come in and say, “It’s my junior year and I didn’t even know that this place existed” or “I had never been here before”. We just want to make sure that our presence is loud and proud on campus because we’re loud and proud.