Matthew Simmons, ESyoU honoree

Simmons is the Resident Director of Shawnee. Photo Credit / Jamie Reese
Simmons is the Resident Director of Shawnee. Photo Credit / Jamie Reese

Simmons is the Resident Director of Shawnee.
Photo Credit / Jamie Reese

BY VERONES PADILLA

SC Staff Writer

“The work I do is really all in a day’s work.  I just hope that I’m having a positive impact on the students and their lives,” said Matthew Simmons, one of this year’s ESyoU honorees.

As an ongoing initiative to honor staff and faculty whose work is outstanding, President Marcia Welsh began ESyoU honors.

The program introduces an individual, identified by administrators and peers, who positively impacts our campus.

Last week’s honoree was Matthew Simmons, who is Resident Director of Shawnee Hall and the coordinator for the LGBTQA Program Center.

Simmons has been with ESU for over eleven years, overseeing operations at residence halls, coordinating programs, and supervising resident directors.

Almost five years ago, Simmons was approached by Dr. Doreen Tobin, VP of Student Affairs, and asked to create the LGBTQA center from the ground up.

“It’s hard to believe that was 5 years ago.  It’s been an amazing process to see the growth of students,” said Simmons.

Since establishing the center, Simmons has been busy making changes to the university.  With the support of administration, Simmons and the LGBTQA has helped create policies against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, and he has also been instrumental in establishing Gender Neutral Housing.

This new policy, which begins this March, would allow for co-ed rooming, if the dorm in question has two separate bedrooms.

Simmons’ new project with administration is the “Preferred Name Call” initiative.  The initiative would allow a student to use a preferred name instead of their legal name, in all unofficial aspects of their time at ESU.

This particular initiative spans beyond the LGBTA community, and may be used by International students who would prefer to use a more westernized name.  The logistics of this initiative are still in progress.

Beyond policy changing, Simmons and his center have raised funds for different charitable foundations such as the Pennsylvania Diversity Network, BFLAG, as well as the Ali Forney Center of NYC.

The Ali Forney Center is a center for homeless LGBTA youth in NYC that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

Simmons and the LGBTQA Center host an annual Drag Show, usually held in the fall semester.  Last year’s show commemorated its fifth year, and over 300 people attended.

“Both my work with Residence Life and the (LGBTQA) center are very very student centered.  Everything we do is to benefit the students and make their experience the best it could possibly be,” said Simmons.

In April, Simmons and the LGBTQA will bring Drag Bingo to the Keystone room.  $20 will get you 20 boards and the proceeds will be split between the center and Fighting AIDS Continuously Together (FACT), a nonprofit organization committed to assisting individuals and families affected by HIV.

“Matthew is honestly one of the best people I’ve had the pleasure of working with. He’s a great mentor who is always available for any of the students when we need him, whether it’s to sign paperwork or to confide in him,” said Rhiannnon Millard, president of the LGBTQA student association.

Millard said that without the support and guidance of Simmons, they would not have so many outside resources at their disposal.  Simmons spends time networking and building relationships with organizations that enrich the students’ college experience.  Millard says the best part of working with Simmons is his humor.

“He’s really funny. He makes everything we do fun and is still a college student at heart. Even though he’s a little bit older, he can still understand us and knows how to communicate with college students,” said Milliard.

Email Verones at:

vpadilla@live.esu.edu

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