(Written by Melissa Carrick, a senior public relations major and co-president of the University of Findlay’s Public Relations Student Society of America chapter).
A University of Findlay instructor and the campus Public Relations Society of American chapter have teamed up to help community members with social justice efforts pertaining to gender inclusivity.
Helping to bring all entities together is Dr. Jasmin Bradley, M.D. who moved to Findlay over a year ago. She became actively involved in the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning and others) Community Council, which is made up of over 30 people, including representatives from other LGBTQ+ community groups and concerned citizens who are seeking to improve equality in Findlay.
Dr. Bradley, born in the south of England, has been making a difference through community service since she was a college student. At age 18, Dr. Bradley she worked as an intern in Oakland, California helping families recovering from homelessness.
“It was like long-term rehabilitation and we mainly did that through supporting the children. We provided daycare so families could go out and work to make a living and pay rent,” explained Dr. Bradley.
It was in California where Dr. Bradley met her partner, Heidi Mercer, a University of Findlay alumna. Mercer had studied social work at UF and was also working in California at the time.
Both relocated together while Mercer went to graduate school and Bradley attended medical school, but they eventually ended up in Findlay to be close to Mercer’s family. Dr. Bradley graduated from medical school in England, but is not yet fully licensed to practice in the United States. In the meantime, she has been teaching at the University as a visiting biology professor.
“Personally, I’m on a little journey – do I stay in education and do research, or do I go down the clinical medicine path because currently, I’m really enjoying teaching and the interaction with students,” stated Dr. Bradley.
While teaching at UF, Dr. Bradley became involved in the LGBTQ+ Community Council hoping to make a difference yet again. Robin Walters-Powell, Ed.D., chair of the Social Work Program at UF, founded the LGBTQ+ Community Council and also worked with UF to update their non-discrimination policy on campus.
In Ohio it is legal to fire someone, deny housing, ad deny access to public accommodations, such as bathrooms, based on their LGBTQ+ status. According to Walters-Powell, the University of Findlay updated its nondiscrimination policies to include gender identity in 2017.
“With this, so many good things have happened and there’s still some things we need to do, but that has lit the fire underneath us to really work on becoming what we think we should be. Plus, one of our goals at the University is to celebrate diversity,” stated Walters-Powell.
While there is still a lot of work to do in Ohio in terms of laws, the LGBTQ+ Community Council is focusing on “lived equality” efforts. Currently, the LGBTQ+ Community Council members are partnering with Spectrum, a Findlay nonprofit that provides services exclusively for the LGBTQ+ community, to create a directory identifying businesses and organizations in Findlay that are LGBTQ+ friendly.
The goal of the project is to create an identifiable brand for the LBGTQ+ community directory to give people peace of mind as they approach businesses for their services. The directory will also allow the LGBTQ+ community to support businesses that support equality.
“When it comes to more personal considerations such as healthcare, everyone wants a provider who is not going to allow judgement to get in the way of quality care… Knowing your healthcare provider is a supporter and has taken time to sign up to the community directory will be a massive deal,” said Dr. Bradley.
A project of this magnitude requires a lot of time in terms of strategy and planning.
“That’s where PRSSA comes in because (UF senior) Jacob King is helping me to brand the materials that will be sent to the first 100 businesses and organizations that we have identified as possible supporters of the directory,” Dr. Bradley said.
PRSSA is a student-run group of pre-professionals looking to enhance their communication skills through real-world experiences with clients. King, who is doubling majoring in public relations and Spanish, is the co-president of the UF chapter, along with Melissa Carrick.
“We do anything from developing digital stories for clients, websites, promotional materials or even public speaking and event planning. We really kind of do it all,” stated King.
The need for well-branded materials to present to local businesses was just one of the reasons that Dr. Bradley sought the help of students.
“I believe it’s important for students to be able to get involved in this sort of work. Jacob had quite a few questions about how this all started. Well, the answer is, you just start it,” said Dr. Bradley. “That’s what is great about this country…We are just regular people in this community and we want to try and make a difference, and we can.”
King is working on producing brand materials, logo designs and other content to send to local organizations in the community to gain support. Members of PRSSA are taught to develop consistent branded messages for clients, which Jacob is able to apply in this project to ensure when the group asks for support of local businesses, they are, “in a public relations sense, very well prepared,” he said.
King said the experiential learning has been valuable.
“This work is extremely important and pertains directly to my major and what I want to do in my career, which is to use PR to help those voices who may not be heard, and this is giving me really substantial real-world experience to use my skills and help others,” stated King.
Not only is Dr. Bradley personally tied to the project because she is a part of the LGBTQ+ community, but she moved from a country which had comprehensive laws to protect her in these situations. She believes the directory will create a more inclusive community and is crucial for the development of Findlay.
“I moved here with a partner and kids that I believe should be protected and have peace of mind when approaching community establishments, so yes, I’m passionate about that, not just for me, but for future generations as well,” expressed Dr. Bradley.
The council believes taking small steps like creating a directory will help enhance the bigger steps they are taking, like providing support groups, having a public presence, education and breaking down barriers.
“We can change laws to make non-discrimination less likely, but we need to do work beyond that to make everyday life reflect those laws,” stated Dr. Bradley.