As the semester starts back up at the University, a group of students looks to match the energy and excitement of a new academic year to create lasting change in the McIntire School of Commerce — Pride at McIntire.
Pride at McIntire’s mission is to serve as a safe space for LGBTQ+ Commerce students and allies, providing a hub for both professional development resources and community support. PAM strives to foster an environment where traditionally underrepresented voices are heard, acknowledged and amplified.
PAM was founded in the 2016-17 academic year but entered a period of inactivity due to changes in leadership and the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, executives in the organization are filing for obtaining CIO status to reestablish a strong presence on Grounds.
Andy Ventura Lopez, PAM’s co-president and fourth-year Commerce student, is working hard to create a permanent place for LGBTQ+ students to feel unified in a largely heteronormative environment. Ventura Lopez is looking to reach out to interested students, in particular underclassmen, to help sustain the club’s place at the University for years to come.
“A lot of the members are third and fourth-years, so we’re trying really hard to recruit younger members to build up our foundation again,” Ventura Lopez said.
PAM hopes to guide students to success in the classroom and beyond through a variety of learning opportunities that are specially curated for Commerce students — such as Commerce-related workshops, networking opportunities and mock ICE classes for prospective first and second-year students in preparation for the first year of the Commerce curriculum.
Connections with other organizations on Grounds, like the Queer Student Union, have supported PAM’s revival. Ryan Young, PAM’s employer engagement chair and second-year College student, said that he wants to educate students about programs specifically geared towards LGBTQ+ students in the consulting industry. He hopes that PAM will increase access to these opportunities and empower those students.
“I want to just spread the word and show that there are a lot of things that are going on right now that can be a lot of service to people in the [LGBTQ+] community,” Young said. “I really want to let people know that there is a space for them.”
Micaela Pesante, PAM’s PR Chair and fourth-year Commerce student, credits her time at PAM for giving her the chance to explore what it takes to authentically be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community at the University.
“Pride at McIntire provided me with the opportunity to be an ally, learn, grow and connect with others who share a commitment to creating a more inclusive and accepting community,” Pesante said. “It's a chance to celebrate diversity and contribute to a positive and supportive environment for all members of the community, regardless of their sexual orientation.”
Ventura Lopez said that, above all, the community and sense of belonging found within PAM is essential to the life of many Commerce students. He said that PAM not only strives to discuss what it means to be LGBTQ+, but also how each student’s cultural background is intertwined with that identity.
“As a Latinx student, there is more to me than just one identity,” Ventura Lopez said. “PAM allows my intersecting identities to be seen.”
It is PAM’s hope to increase allyship with the LGBTQ+ community in order to cultivate a new generation of intersectionality in the professional world, working to break the norms and commonly held stereotypes of Commerce as an not inclusive field.
“Our goal is to show that there are programs and companies [that] have a commitment to inclusivity,” Young said. “Being able to showcase that is really important because of the culture of feeling unwelcome [in many professional spaces].”
Ventura Lopez said that while he feels that most workplaces have begun to create spaces for LGBTQ+ employees and establish visibility, it still has not done enough to combat disapproval and exclusion in some places.
“I feel like the majority of the firms have LGBTQ+ groups,” Ventura Lopez said. “I don't think visibility is the main issue, I think mostly acceptance because people have different opinions and beliefs which, there's nothing wrong with that, but I think acceptance is like the last hurdle, that we — or anyone who's a part of LGBTQ+ — has to face in the corporate world.”
Students interested in joining PAM can find a link to their GroupMe and Listserv through their Instagram account — @prideatmcintire. PAM executives say that it is vital to have spaces for LGBTQ+ students and allies to come together to ensure everyone has the tools to succeed — something that they say is inseparable from pride and living authentically.
“Making sure that everyone, no matter their sexual orientation, feels safe and embraced on grounds is very important,” Pesante said. “PAM is dedicated to creating an environment where students, faculty, and staff know they are supported and genuinely cared for.”