AUS/GSBA Partnership to Redefine Support for LGBTQIA Leaders

In a move that speaks directly to Antioch University Seattle’s (AUS) vision to build and serve inclusive communities, Antioch University Seattle has embarked upon a historic Diamond Academic Partnership with the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA), the largest LGBTQIA chamber of commerce in North America.

“Diamond Partnership represents the highest level of sponsorship,” said Travis Mears, Director of Development and Scholarship Programs for the GSBA. With this partnership, AUS finds itself in the company of Pacific Northwest corporate leaders like Microsoft and Alaska Airlines; sponsorship implies a very public investment.

“Ours is the first academic partnership of its kind with the GSBA,” said Emmelyn Hart, AUS Director of Institutional Advancement (IA). Hart is understandably excited by the news and looks forward to defining and refining this diamond in the rough.

The GSBA Scholarship Fund awards educational scholarships to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, and allied undergraduate and graduate students who demonstrate strong academic abilities and who are actively involved in their school and community organizations.

“Antioch University’s values attract the kind of student GSBA supports, but we have local and global university recipients,” said Mears. “Students must be residents of the state of Washington, and they must be moving the needle forward for social justice.” Mears goes on to explain that the partnership at the Diamond level not only contributes significantly to the 3 million dollars awarded to these students annually, but also provides the business chamber opportunities as well.

Helping to define the thrust of this investment has been the long-time challenge of the AU Associate Vice Chancellor of IA, Dr. Dan Hocoy, whose conversations as acting Interim President back in 2015 with GSBA President and CEO Louise Chernin planted the seed for the partnership.

According to Hart, a task force is being assembled and a memorandum of understanding is being crafted to outline the terms and details of how the AUS investment in GSBA will be directed.

“Dan brought us together to facilitate this,” said Mears. “We have a leadership immersion weekend planned at Islandwood in August, and leaders from across sectors are charged with guiding best practices.”

In keeping with the AU mission and vision for engagement, investment in the GSBA Leadership Academy will promote the common good; task force members include AUS visionaries and members from Seattle University and University of Idaho, as well other small business and corporate leaders. “We have a truly unique opportunity,” said Mears. “We’re a business chamber focused on equality for all in a city with the fastest growing economy in the country. Working together with AUS, a university known nationally for its commitment to equity and inclusion, and it’s unique model, we see even greater potential for our scholars.”

“Both organizations have a desire to be part of the progressive change in the city, and both recognize that we are stronger as partners than alone,” noted Hocoy. But it was in discussions with Chernin regarding the challenge of providing scholarship recipients with supportive, developmental, cumulative, and competency-based leadership curriculum in addition to structure and content reflecting best practices that Antioch University Seattle’s strength as a partner crystallized.

GSBA scholarship recipients represent a diverse group with audacious dreams, as well as the skills and dedication to make them reality. According to Mears, though, the emotional impact of the scholarship program on participants rivals the financial. “For them it’s about having a community of people who believe in their ability to succeed.” And as a community, we shoulder responsibility for that continued support.

“This generation of leaders faces unique creative challenges,” said Hocoy. Transitioning personally while emerging professionally requires support and fresh thinking about the nature of support. “As many leadership and management programs have discovered, we know that the best leadership is authentic leadership. Leaders need to know who they are before they can lead.”

For the moment, according to Hart, the inaugural GSBA Leadership Academy intensive weekend at Islandwood might be compared to cutting-edge CE credits for working leaders with a job to do. “The academy will provide leadership training not only to support academic success but also to provide the tools for leadership once school is done.” The task force is also challenged to come up with a collaborative fundraising plan and essential, measurable, sensible, and simple metrics that will allow the GSBA Leadership Academy to be a lasting, evolving investment in the future.

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