By Julie Stromsvold, International Student.
Pacific Lutheran University takes pride in its diverse students, including those of a different sexual orientation and gender identification. This university also has many student clubs and organizations dedicated to supporting all these students.
Sitting in the PLU Diversity Center, fittingly surrounded by pride flags, is PLU junior Dan Stell. Stell is an anthropology and global studies major. He plays the viola in the school orchestra, is an ASPLU senator running for vice president, a co-rep for Crossroads, and one of PLU’s students concerned with gay rights issues.
“It just feels like it’s what I do, and I don’t see it as a lot,” Stell says. Stell has always enjoyed having a lot on his plate. He was born in Oregon, and his mother joked that he was such a handful they could only stand to have one child. He participated in choir and theatre, then at the age of seven, he discovered music in violinist Joshua Bell, who he saw on TV.
The issue of gay rights at PLU is an important subject to him. He is a member of PLU’s Queer Straight Alliance, QASU, as well as being a co-rep for Crossroads. Crossroads describes itself as “a completely confidential discussion group for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, asexual, intersex and 2 spirited PLU students, PLU alumni and community members.” As a co-representative, he helps run meetings and introduces new members to the group.
“It’s great seeing people explore their identities.” Stell said. He is gay as well and came out just last year. He didn’t go to Crossroads before coming out, but after he came out, he wanted a way to ease himself into the queer community and Crossroads was what he chose. Because he just recently declared himself gay, he doesn’t feel ready to be a role model. However, as he is so active and open in the LGBT community, it was difficult not to be a role model. “I’m just doing what I’m doing though, because if they already see me as a role model, I must be doing something right.”
Vice President of the Queer Straight Alliance and junior, Tova Lyng said, “He (Stell) is a very visible person due to his involvement in ASPLU and numerous other clubs and groups and he provides a good example of a successful, responsible, and intelligent student leader who also happens to be gay.” She hopes the fact that he is so involved outside of the LGBTQ community will help other LGBTQ students feel more okay becoming involved with student leadership.
Being gay is not the reason for why he is so involved. He said this is just his nature.
More Than Just Event Planning
Stell says it has always been his plan to help people. His initial goal when coming to PLU was to be a doctor. However, the more involved he became in the various social justice issues he encountered at PLU, he realized that he wanted to help people in different ways. He says his choice to run for vice president of ASPLU rather than president lies in his desire to be hands-on. “The president is definitely the figure piece. The vice president is very much about the detail oriented day-to-day managerial aspects of ASPLU.”
He says he realizes that ASPLU is often viewed as just an event planning committee, but he says there is much more to it than that. There are some events that are just for fun, but others are good for the growth of the people. One example of a learning activity is diversity week which is coming up in May, where one of the events is a drag show. This year ASPLU is working on getting professional drag artists to attend, in order to educate about the culture of drag, rather than it just being entertainment.
And events certainly are not the only thing on its agenda. One of ASPLU’s biggest battles last year was gender-neutral housing. Though not personally involved, Stell was one of the ASPLU senators who voted for its implementation. “It is there for those who do not feel comfortable with the traditional housing arrangements because their gender does not match their sex and there was worry about discrimination. It was implemented to provide a path to more equitable housing for everyone involved.”
It is not just the LGBTQ community that benefits from Stell’s involvement. One of the things he is working on personally through ASPLU at the moment, is continuing last years project of keeping the library open 24 hours during dead and finals week. He also works as a Commuter Community Assistant, which means it is his job to provide commuter students with a welcoming place to hang out between classes.
Stell represents a good example of what one student is capable of doing for a community, and how important it is to get involved at college. He said one of his biggest regrets is not being more involved during his first year, as not only has he helped others, but also himself in the friends and connections he has made.