Gavin Weiser: Advocating for inclusion in higher education
Among Gavin Weiser’s former roles was to create and present workshops on the basic ways everyone can respect the humanity of people from various marginalized communities. Attendees were usually members of the campus community, including faculty, staff, and students from the University of South Carolina, where Weiser was earning a doctorate.
Weiser can recall many memorable moments from this time, but one stands out among the rest. While covering the topic of non-binary pronouns during a presentation, a journalism doctoral student stood up to vehemently disagree with such language usage, including “they” in lieu of “he/she.” The practice would never be adopted, he argued, especially in newsprint. “The thing is, the Associated Press, the creator of the stylebook used in his field began accepting the use of ‘they’ about a year earlier,” Weiser said. “It was an easy rebuttal.”
Weiser prefers non-binary pronouns such as ze/hir/hirs and they/their/theirs, which are used within this article. Weiser is an assistant professor and co-coordinator of the College Student Personnel Administration (CSPA) program. The second-newest faculty member in the Department of Educational Administration and Foundations at Illinois State University, they served in the role since fall 2018. The unit prepares future leaders in student affairs and related positions for colleges and universities across the U.S.
“The last year has been a really wonderful onboarding process. Not only am I inspired by fellow faculty members, but we have great leadership out of the chair and associate chair,” they said.
In the broadest terms, their teaching, service, and research is focused on making higher education inclusive for all students. Weiser has published (or has forthcoming) over a half dozen articles and book chapters since arriving at Illinois State and is a part of several diversity initiatives on campus and in the community. That includes the Culturally Responsive Campus Community Conference committee, the Office of the Provost’s professional development task force, and the Multicultural Center Taskforce. In addition, Weiser serves as a faculty affiliate for both Women’s and Gender Studies and the Latin American and Latino/a Studies program.
“Our students are excited to come in and learn with us. It’s a phenomenal department and I feel very fortunate to be here,” they said.
Weiser’s road to Normal was also lined with advocacy and activism. While a freshman in high school, the New Jersey-native organized a petition when the budget for the theatre program was cut. The effort successfully swayed the school board, restoring funding.
At FSU Weiser earned a bachelor’s in interdisciplinary humanities emphasizing English and African American studies. Though struggling to connect with instructors in the large-classroom environment, they nabbed a teaching assistant role for the leadership living learning community as a sophomore.
The job unearthed a passion for experiential learning and student affairs. Weiser then spent a year serving with the Youth Conservation Corps as part of AmeriCorps VISTA in Waukegan. The position involved helping nontraditional, at-risk students ages 16–24 earn their GED.
At the University of South Carolina, Columbia they earned three advanced degrees/certificates: an M.Ed. in higher education and student affairs, a graduate certificate in women and gender studies, and a Ph.D. in educational foundations and inquiry.
Weiser served in multiple leadership roles within the university’s Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and was a go-to source for delivering competency trainings focused on serving students in LGBTQ and other underrepresented communities.