LGBTQIA reception brings together alumni, current ISU students

Students, staff and alumni gathered for the LGBTQIA alumni reception on Oct. 12 in the Student Services Building.

Morgan Kelly

A steady murmur of chatter and laughter filled the front room of the Student Services Center as the LGBTQIA alumni and leaders in the community enjoyed a spread of fruits, coffee cakes, and turnovers.


The first ever LGBTQIA Alumni Reception was held Oct. 12 in the Student Services Center. Brad Freihoefer, program coordinator of LGBT Student Services said he’s hoping an event like this will preface many like it to come.


“We think it’s really important that the LGBT alumni know that there’s still a community here at Iowa State and that there’s a way to give back to the LGBT community,” said Adam Guenther, senior in animal science and president of the LGBT Ally Alliance. “Or current students so they can see people who have gone on, led lives and had jobs, whether they’re open or not.”


Trent Preszler, who spoke at the LGBTQIA Alumni Reception, graduated in 1998 from Iowa State with a degree in interdisciplinary studies. He is now the CEO of Bedell Cellars, a successful winery in Long Island, New York. Bedell Cellars’ wine was the official wine of the President Obama’s inauguration.


Preszler discussed the importance of the connection between alumni and students.


“Connecting alumni with students helps them see what’s possible,” Preszler said. “They can have a role model who is out and still successful in the world, which I didn’t have when I was a student.”


Thao Pham, class of 2013 with a degree in management of information systems, said in the last year she’s noticed an increase of students at LGBT events.


“Not that they haven’t always been doing really well, it just seems like they’re progressing even more,” Pham said. “I’m really proud of Brad [Freihoefer] and the Alliance for all the work they’re doing.”


Besides being involved in the LGBTAA, Pham was also a member of the Asian Pacific American Awareness Coalition, women of color network and spent a few years in the ISU hip hop dance club.


She also said student and faculty organizations made her Iowa State adventure a positive one.


“They made a huge difference in my life,” Pham said. “If I went to a different college where the administration or student organizations weren’t as supportive, I would have a worse college experience.“


Freihoefer attributes the success of making students feel supported to the connectedness of the individual LGBT groups on campus.


“I think the collaboration between groups is really essential,” Freihoefer said. “We’re making resources easier for students to access, for alumni to access, so we’ve got a synched network instead of 80 different sites.” 


During the reception, there was time for alumni to introduce themselves and reflect with others on their time spent at Iowa State.


“The 90s were a different era for gay and lesbian students,” Preszler said. “I was in the closet and I was definitely afraid. I didn’t come out until I was 25 and in graduate school.”


Preszler also said he was proud of the university for funding programs and giving the LGBT community a place to gather, such as the Student Services Building.


Jeff Johnson, the lead staff liaison of the alumni association, stopped by to say a few words about how diversity inclusion will be a “major pillar in this years agenda” in the alumni programs.


Johnson also said the inclusion of all people shows how much Iowa State wants to send out a message to say “this is all our university”.


“If you want to be proud of your identity, this is a place where you can do that and be a Cyclone,” said Freihoefer.