"Rutgers has a great history of welcoming LGBT students," says Richard K. Jung, who was attracted to the university's inclusive culture before becoming director of development at Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences two years ago. "We had one of the very first LGBT student groups in the nation."
Rutgers' commitment to sexual-orientation and gender-identity equality dates back to 1969, when the student Homophile League—now called the Bisexual, Gay, and Lesbian Alliance of Rutgers University (BiGLARU)—was formed by then–English major Lionel Cuffie.
Still, Jung noticed "a few things that just weren't in place for our LGBT students" when he came aboard. "We didn't have dedicated scholarship funds … we didn't have an alumni group—and those things are really important," he says.
Click here to read more about how AT&T lent a hand to the Rutgers Future Scholars program.
Watch young students taking part in the Rutgers Future Scholars program in this video.
So Jung began to research the Human Rights Campaign web site and saw that much smaller colleges in less-urban areas had formed LGBT scholarships. "And I thought, 'How can the largest institution in the state of New Jersey not have [an LGBT student scholarship] when the University of Mississippi has one?'" he recalls.
That's what inspired Jung and a committed group of alumni, faculty and administrators to launch the LGBT Leadership Scholarship Fund to nurture and support the next generation of LGBT and allied student activists. Jung hopes the scholarship will help recipients to not only continue their academic studies but to encourage community-leadership efforts that fight discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Since launching the scholarship fund last year, more than $96,000 in pledges and gifts—more than half from Rutgers faculty and alumni—have been secured. DiversityInc, whose CEO Luke Visconti sits on the Rutgers board of trustees, was one of the fund's first cash donors. Student events are also helping to raise pledges. To permanently endow the scholarship by the end of the fiscal year, Jung needs $100,000 and hopes to raise $150,000 by the end of June 30.
How much will be allocated to LGBT and ally students? For starters, $4,000 to $4,500 each year will be given, "but we should see the portfolio significantly grow over the years along with our donor base," Jung adds. "I'm really trying to work with corporate diversity groups to see if some don't have LGBT-specific funds to give to the scholarship."
What do students need to qualify? "Most important is [LGBT and ally students'] commitment to the LGBT community, their ability to show that they've taken on and assumed leadership roles and their willingness to be leaders while in school," says Jung.
To qualify, LGBT or ally students must:
- Be enrolled or plan to enroll full time at Rutgers
- Demonstrate involvement in promoting LGBT activities at the university or, if incoming, in high school
- Demonstrate leadership in encouraging a positive identity for LGBT students at the university or within the community
- Have a financial need and good academic standing
To further encourage campus equality, Rutgers began hosting the Rainbow Graduation Celebration in 1998, which honors the achievements of LGBT undergraduate and graduate students each year by presenting the Lionel Cuffie Award for Activism and Excellence. The first LGBT Leadership Scholarship Fund awards, which will be handed out to at least three students, will be announced at this event in May.
One of the driving forces behind this initiative, notes Jung, has been a relatively new organization called the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Alumni/ae Association—RU BiGLATA—which provides a means for alumni to support the current LGBT student community. (For more on LGBT history at Rutgers, click here.)
To learn more about the LGBT Leadership Scholarship Fund or to make a pledge, contact Richard Jung at firstname.lastname@example.org.