A Year of Growth with the LGBTQ+ CSD Student Association

Last June, I introduced the world to the LGBTQ+ CSD Student Association in the NSSLHA Blog post, “Finding Community as an LGBTQ+ Student.” Now, nearly a year later, I look back on our beginnings and am incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished.

I interviewed two of the organization’s officers, President Cailee Stein and Event Chair Eric Button to reflect and share their perspectives on how the organization has grown . . .

How’d the LGBTQ+ CSD Student Association Start and How Has it Grown?

Cailee Stein, President: It is hard to believe how far this group has come from the initial planning meetings a little over a year ago between Charlie, Connor, Ray, and myself. When we began founding this group, we all knew that we wanted to build a strong community and voice for LGBTQ+ students within the CSD community. I don’t think that any of us expected to receive the amount of support we’ve had over the past year. Getting to know each of the officers that we’ve elected has been wonderful and everyone’s dedication is apparent.

We’ve been working hard this past year to establish the LGBTQ+ CSD Student Association’s presence within the CSD community. It’s wonderful to see new and familiar faces in each of our online social events, and one thing we’ve found is that many of our experiences are similar, for better or for worse. Providing a safe space for discussion of solutions to these challenges and what work we’d like to see done in the field, in general, has been helpful for many folks, including myself.

What’s the Association’s Biggest Accomplishment?

Cailee Stein, President: A primary goal of our mission is to establish support services for LGBTQ+ CSD students. One of the accomplishments that I’m most proud of thus far has been the launch of our mentorship program, where we match LGBTQ+ students with professionals who provide guidance on everything from graduate school applications to clinical fellowships to navigating professional relationships and networking within the field (something that can be hard to approach for LGBTQ+ students). As someone matched with a mentor myself, I can definitely say that it serves as an excellent means for supporting LGBTQ+ CSD students who are often more marginalized. It’s been great to feel the support of professionals within the field!

Eric Button, Events Chair: Recently, I partnered with Lindsay Stefferson, our Mentorship Chair, to collaborate on events for mentors and mentees, including a mentorship program. During the first meeting with my own mentor, he confessed how thankful he was that we started this program and “wished I had something like it in graduate school.” This statement made me realize how impactful mentorship can have for both the mentor and mentee.

What Are You Most Proud of During Your Time With the Association?

Eric Button, Events Chair: Through my role, I’ve collaborated with our Membership Chair, Mel Grasso, on creating resources that were shared at last year’s ASHA Convention in Washington D.C., as well as worked on several events like our Winter Mixer, which provided a space for students to destress before the spring semester.

Between these events, launching our website, and hearing our Vice President, Connor, speak about the LGBTQ+ CSDSA on The Queer SLP podcast, words cannot describe how proud I am about how far we’ve come as an organization. Everyone has worked so hard to bring LGBTQ+ CSD students and faculty members together. I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to collaborate and network with so many passionate faculty mentors and students who care about the well-being of others and who want to see improvements in the fields of audiology and speech-language pathology. It’s been an absolute pleasure being in this role and I cannot wait to continue to contribute to this fantastic community.

How Have You Been Personally Impacted By This Community?

Cailee Stein, President: To say that I’m proud to be the president of this group would be an understatement. As a queer individual who has only recently felt empowered to come out in a professional setting, having other CSD students to share a community with has been vital to my well-being. I’ll never stop telling others that this is the group I wish I had when I was an undergraduate trying to navigate intimidating professional and school-related decisions, on top of navigating complexities relating to my identity as a gender-fluid individual. I hope that sharing my own experiences and hopes for the future of our professions can empower others to share their own experiences and the changes they wish to see!

Eric Button, Events Chair: Before becoming a member of the LGBTQ+ CSDSA’s executive board, I was involved with my undergraduate and graduate NSSLHA chapters. As the only person on these boards who identified as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I often didn’t know how to express my feelings in a way where I could be heard and validated. When I heard about the formation of the LGBTQ+ CSD Student Association, I applied for one of the open leadership roles immediately! Whether chatting with the executive board before our meetings or brainstorming with members, I feel a sense of purpose and belongingness within our organization. I’ve seen the impact our organization has had on its members and mentors.

What Do You Envision for the Future of the Association?

Cailee Stein, President: Because this group has been needed within the CSD community for so long, there’s a level of dedication that’s required to ensure our longevity into the future. By laying the complex groundwork that we have thus far, I have no doubt that we’re setting up future officers for success.

We’re grateful to have the support of many professionals within the CSD community and look forward to further collaboration with LGBTQ+ folks and allies within the field. There are a number of paths we foresee in the future for providing equitable solutions to some of the issues that impact LGBTQ+ students in particular.

One of the programs we feel will be a massive part of our future is the continued growth of our mentorship program. This not only encourages professional growth but provides a sense of hope and belonging to LGBTQ+ CSD students who may not have met other professionals in the field who are a part of the community. We also hope to use our organization to uplift the voices of LGBTQ+ clients that we work with, encourage cultural humility, and advocate for equitable treatment of all folks within our community. 

Eric Button, Events Chair: The  LGBTQ+ CSDSA is just finishing its first year, so there are still opportunities for growth as we look into the future. Our mentorship program has been one example of how networking has impacted both CSD students and professionals. It provides a safe space for all to ask questions about different academic, research, and clinical opportunities, as well as express concerns in a confidential manner.

With the help and ideas from other executive board members and those in our mentorship program, I’ve been brainstorming new opportunities and events too. I’m hoping to launch even more opportunities for students to network and get involved with peers and professionals soon.

Join the LGBTQ+ CSD Student Association

We’re always open to anyone who wants to get involved in our association—be it students in need of mentorship, allies looking to make their universities a more welcoming place, or students looking to find friends who can relate to their experiences. We invite you to check out our website, sign up for our mailing list, and follow us on Instagram and Facebook (our public page and private page). We hope to meet and see you soon!

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