This interview was originally featured on the Queer Voices Instagram page @queer_voices.
Biomedical Art and Visualization major Emerson Harman created the Queer Voices Project, which is working “to amplify LGBTQ+ student, faculty, and alumni voices at Rowan University through portraits and interviews.” You can also find more of their content here.
Name, pronouns, and identity?
I am Drew Tinnin, I use he/him/his pronouns, and I identify as a gay male.
What is your position at Rowan, and when did you start?
I am currently the Associate Vice President for Student Life here, so I work a lot with campus involvement such as the Student Center and Rec Center, orientation, student leadership, and clubs and organizations. I started in 2010 working with orientation and student leadership programs.
When did you come out as LGBTQ, and why then?
I’m from a fairly small, conservative town in middle-of-nowhere Missouri that had about 8,000 people and 160 people in my high school class. I went to college at a school very similar to Rowan there in Missouri, and came out during college because it was really an environment that was more conducive to me. I met many accepting faculty and staff I interacted with that supported me throughout my coming out process in college.
Has being LGBTQ+ impacted or influenced your career, and if so, how?
Education in general is fairly accepting and so that has probably contributed to my career choice. I originally was planning to be a high school speech and theater teacher, which is what I was going for in my undergrad. I really got involved in college, was an RA and a member of student government, and by working with the different staff I learned that higher education is a thing too, which is why I decided to pursue my career in higher ed. I went to grad school right after undergrad for higher ed at Bowling Green in Ohio, which is actually where I met my then-future husband as a grad student. My career choice has definitely been part of my coming out and identity development.
How has LGBTQ culture and acceptance changed throughout your time here at Rowan?
Even in 10 years here at Rowan, I’ve definitely seen a lot of changes. When I started, we only had one [LGBTQ+] student organization, the Gay-Straight Alliance. Over time I have seem the Gay-Straight Alliance morph into what is now Prism, and we now have many more queer student organizations. I was the first advisor for True Colors, which started because some trans students didn’t feel that they had the type of space that they wanted in Prism, so they started their own organization. Now we also have Queer People of Color, Out in STEM, and a variety of other opportunities for students, which is something that has definitely increased over the years.
There have also been some campus policies and things that we’ve tried to do to support students that I’m proud to be a part of. We were one of the first schools in the state to implement preferred name policies for students. We’ve also done a lot of work with single-user restrooms that are more accessible on campus, as well as some more inclusive housing options where students can choose roommates without consideration for sex or gender identity. When we built Holly Pointe, the gender neutral bathrooms were certainly something we wanted to make sure were included.
What would you say to a student or youth who’s struggling with their identity, either personally or with others?
I definitely think it’s a process that’s different for a lot of people, but I hope students are able to find the support and resources that they need here. I’ve found a lot of students and faculty are accepting and welcoming, and both wanting to learn more about others while also being supportive. I know it can be super scary to talk about identity, especially if you are questioning or just coming out, but in my experience, it really helped when I started talking about my identity with others.
For new students, I would just encourage them to get involved and explore their new community! We have many LGBTQIA+ student organizations and resources, and they should not hesitate to check them out no matter how they identify.
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