The Office of LGBT Life, founded in the fall of 1991, has used Emory Pride — an undergraduate LGBTQ and Ally organization — as the vessel through which the Office of LGBT Life connects to the student body. According to its mission statement, the club aims to foster a sense of community in which education and inclusiveness thrive. In a recent review from eCollegeFinder, Emory was named the “most LGBT-friendly school” in Georgia.

“Emory’s pretty special,” said Publicity Representative and College Sophomore Katya Miranda. According to her and the Office of LGBT Life, the University’s policies are inclusive and accepting, and the Office provides numerous resources for students seeking information and support.

“Queer is part of every community and we should celebrate that. Every community has the ability to welcome Queer,” Miranda said.

Every Sunday, Miranda sends out a weekly newsletter to the organization’s members with information about the upcoming week, including opportunities to get involved with the Pride in Atlanta and in the Office of LGBT Life. Students can sign up for these weekly newsletters at www.lgbt.emory.edu.

But, there’s more. Where else are you going to find a student-run Drag Show? This is Emory Pride’s largest event during the fall semester, and is set to take place on Oct. 30 this year in Glenn Memorial Church. Students from other organizations are encouraged to participate, and judges include Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Ajay Nair, in addition to other faculty members. The money raised goes toward the organization’s budget as well as to LGBT-related charities.

“[The show] is always packed. That’s the kind of audience turnout we want with all our events,” Vice President of External Affairs and College sophomore Anthony Chau said.

A theme of optimistic determination can be seen after talking to members of the organization. Emory Pride wants to improve, to strengthen its influence on campus and to represent the Queer community proudly.

Service trips are one way of doing so. These trips will be LGBT-oriented; for example, Lost-n-Found Youth — Atlanta’s only non-profit organization that works to provide housing for homeless LGBT youth — and the NAMES Project Foundation’s AIDS Memorial Quilt project are two areas that Emory Pride intends on being involved with this year. Other potential events, according to President and College senior Cameron Coppala, include movie nights, game nights, a puppy picnic and a pumpkin carving.

According to the organization’s current officers, past membership has been inconsistent. Weekly meetings saw few faces and the discussions, while educational and appreciated, seemed more like an additional lecture after a long school day. Emory Pride’s new team of leaders is equipped with a new vision.

“We are trying to make our influence on students’ lives bigger and more positive,” Coppala said. “We want a safe space where everyone will feel safe, where people aren’t afraid to make mistakes.”

In accordance with its mission statement, education is one of Emory Pride’s main goals. The organization often holds discussions and presentations of topics varying from “Being Queer and Studying Abroad” to “LGBT History.” According to Chau, the discussions also promote a secure environment in which students can bring forward questions or issues they want addressed. He also mentioned that Emory Pride wants to focus on topics that are more relevant, newsworthy and thought-provoking.

Vice President of Internal Affairs and College junior Duy Nguyen explained that the executive board intends to listen much closer to the voices of the students. Surveys and other feedback methods will be utilized in order to meet the needs of member satisfaction and ongoing improvement.

There is a collective goal within the organization to be more social and have fun. The fun begins with a “Weeks of Welcome” barbeque scheduled for this Saturday, Sept. 12 from 2-4 p.m. on the DUC Terraces. Anybody is welcome to join for free food and music.

Each officer believes in the great potential of this organization and desires to avoid boxing itself in. For instance, Chau is excited to collaborate with other student organizations and to make connections that will enhance member involvement.  He is actually co-leading an Alternative Fall Break to work with CHRIS Kids and the Pride School of Atlanta. Nguyen added that Emory Pride will have panels and roundtable discussions of students’ personal experiences in order to cultivate connections within the organization.

“As officers, we want to make a safe and welcoming environment [for our members] no matter who they are and how they identify,” Nguyen said.

According to Nguyen, the environment is to be one of respect where people understand each other’s struggles and offer support. This year, the organization meets weekly on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. in Candler Library Room 101.

“Our campus influence is minimal right now, but we’re hoping that we can rebuild [Emory] Pride primarily as an organization that facilitates the development of a connected LGBTQ community on campus, as well as a resource for people to learn more about LGBTQ issues and identities,” Coppala said.