Northeastern student Nolan Tesis was one of only six students nationwide to be named a 2016 Arcus Fellow at the California Institute of Integral Studies. The national fellowship, which was created last year to amplify LGBTQ leadership initiatives, serves to support students who are passionate about bolstering programming and visibility for LGBTQ communities at their universities.
Tesis, SSH’17, is dedicated to that mission.
“For me, what they wanted really resonated with my experiences,” he said.
Growing up in Boston, Tesis has always been surrounded by “a diverse group of students,” he said. And more recently, getting involved in community outreach and social justice organizations, including the House and Ballroom Scene, has underscored for him the plight of marginalized communities even within that diverse population.
Before he had studied it, Tesis felt a need for deeper intersectionality among organizations that serve specific communities. Then he took two courses on gender studies, feminism, and intersectionality, both of them taught by Moya Bailey, assistant professor in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities and a scholar of race, feminist, and disability studies.
“That allowed me to take my lived experiences and apply them in an academic way,” Tesis said of the courses’ value.
Soon, he was inspired to apply for the fellowship with Bailey’s help as his official home campus mentor. (Fellowship winners are also paired with a mentor from the California Institute of Integral Studies).
“It wasn’t a surprise to me that he was selected,” Bailey said, smiling. “Nolan took the conversations from our class and is putting them into practice by creating a network that’s intersectional.”
At Northeastern, Tesis sees an array of resources for students of various backgrounds and communities and understands the importance of connecting those resources with one another.
“I think we have a visible LGBT community through NU Pride, but I wanted to develop a program where we could use a few different student resource offices—such as the LGBTQA Resource Center, the John D. O’Bryant African American Institute, the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program—and collaborate and use intersectionality as a core of our programming,” he said. “If we collaborate and work together, we can better suit the needs of students at the margins of each of those groups.”
I want to create an infrastructure, a network that may not have existed before. I want to start a cultural revolution, to find a platform to change lives.
—Nolan Tesis, SSH’17, Arcus Fellowship recipient
His work to that end is already underway, with the organization of a Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony on Saturday.
The ceremony, furnished with part of the $4,700 awarded in grant funds from the fellowship, will be hosted in partnership with the LGBTQA Resource Center and feature a panel discussion to reflect on the memory of lives lost to anti-transgender violence.
Transgender advocates and activists Jahaira DeAlto, Jonovia Chase, Tiq Milan, and Gia Love will constitute the panel.
The event will be held at 2 p.m. in the John D. O’Bryant African American Institute Cabral Center.
It’s open to the public, something that was important to Tesis in order to further connect the university community with the greater Boston community.
“I’m so proud of the fact that this is going to be a mixed crowd,” he said. “It shows me that the interest and the demand is there.” It’s also inspiration, Tesis said, to continue his work through the fellowship.
“I want to create an infrastructure, a network that may not have existed before,” he said. “I want to start a cultural revolution, to find a platform to change lives.”