Adam Malm has only one regret so far from his time as co-chair of the Emory Pride Employee Network (EPEN): this June, he said, was not the ideal month for the group to host a Pride celebration in Asbury Circle. 

It’s not that the event wasn’t a success; almost 300 people showed up for the food trucks, giveaways and games to honor the LGBTQ community, according to Malm. But it was summer in Atlanta — the weather was sweltering. 

The heat didn’t deter Malm and EPEN, though. Since that Pride Month event, the organization has hosted many more well-attended panels, tabling events and celebrations to bring together LGBTQ employees at Emory University, Malm said.

EPEN is one of Emory’s two new Employee Resource Groups, which share a common aim of fostering inclusivity and belonging among Emory faculty and staff members. EPEN has over 250 Emory faculty and staff members, and the Emory Black Employee Network (EBEN), the other Employee Resource Group, has around 500 members. The organizations launched earlier this year after employees signaled interest in a summer 2021 survey. In 2023, the groups will be joined by three or four new groups, according to Recognition and Engagement Manager Melissa Morgan. Morgan did not specify which identities these groups would represent. 

EBEN Co-Chair Amanda Johnson-Scott said she hopes that her organization can help Black employees at Emory develop connections with each other and feel part of a close-knit group. 

“It gives us the opportunity to all come together, collaborate on different ideas and try to find ways to just make it a little better for everyone,” Johnson-Scott said. “We definitely are here to create a community and create a sense of pride as both an African American as well as an African American employee at Emory.”

EBEN’s first event, which attracted 130 people, was a trivia session in February for Black History Month. Since then, the group has organized a Juneteenth commemoration event and hosted discussions about mental health and a career seminar series, among other efforts.

EBEN members gather for a photo during their Juneteenth commemoration event. Image courtesy of Emory University

While planning events, Johnson-Scott and the rest of EBEN’s executive team strive to take members’ interests into account, she said.

“We’re always doing check-ins with them,” Johnson-Scott said. “‘Hey, how are y’all doing? What can we do better? How can we strive to meet your needs?’”

Emory isn’t the only higher education institution with groups like EBEN and EPEN. Employee Resource Groups are also present at Georgetown University, Villanova University and other schools.

EPEN Executive Sponsor Lynell Cadray, who helps support EPEN leaders whenever they have any concerns, said she thinks the Employee Resource Groups are “doing fabulous.” Cadray has enjoyed helping oversee EPEN as an ally because she feels passionately that LGBTQ employees deserve to feel like they belong, she said.

“That is often one of the groups that has less of a voice at the table; that’s often the group that’s discriminated against, that feels silenced,” Cadray said. “So to have a support network — if you’re struggling with anything at work or you just need an ear, you have a network of people who really understand the challenges that you’re facing when you’re in the workplace.”

EPEN has hosted educational panels, including one focused on the transgender community. This fall, the group also participated in National Diversity Week and put up a tent in Piedmont Park during the annual Atlanta Pride Festival and Parade.

Malm said he’s looking forward to future EPEN events. EPEN will participate in World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 and host a holiday mixer, Malm added. The organization also plans to continue hosting educational panels, highlighting smaller groups within the greater LGBTQ community.

“We represent an alphabet’s worth of letters,” Malm said. “As a gay male, I have a very different perspective from an individual who might identify as a Black queer woman, versus someone who might identify as a male, trans individual, who might be very different from someone in the Asian community who’s bisexual.”

Johnson-Scott is also “really, really excited” about the events that EBEN has in the works, she said. Along with collaborating with campus groups like the Emory Votes Initiative, EBEN will coordinate events for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and for Black History Month. The group will also continue their leadership series, aiming to hold a motivational speaking event for employees.

Johnson-Scott and Malm both encouraged allies to get involved with their respective faculty support organizations.

The Employee Resource Groups have, in Johnson-Scott’s experience, helped faculty and staff find others who can support them, she said.

“We periodically get emails from individuals saying, ‘Hey, you know what, I’m so glad you’re doing this,’” Johnson-Scott said. “‘I’m so glad we now have this organization of people that know how we feel and are willing to help.’”

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Lily Freeman (she/her) (26C) is from Bethesda, Maryland. She doesn’t know what she wants to major in, but she knows she enjoys exploring Atlanta, listening to birds and watching the sunset.