LGBT Alliance awards inaugural scholarship to student

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The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Alliance for Equality at UAB formed more than a decade ago to support faculty and staff within UAB’s LGBT community.

Now, it has taken the mission a step further.

(Standing from left) David Morris, Elizabeth Casswell, Jim Raper, (seated) Whitney Shea Julian and Karen Placke are excited about the first LGBT Alliance Scholarship. Julian is the first recipient of the award.

The alliance established and began raising money to fund a scholarship to a deserving student in March 2010. The group raised the $10,000 needed to endow the scholarship by June and recently awarded its first $1,000 scholarship to Whitney Shea Julian, a junior majoring in political science and sociology with a minor in foreign languages.

“I’m so thankful and honored,” Julian says of the award. “This is important to me because it is not just about me. It is something beyond just me. It is about how this particular civil rights movement is progressing. This award is the first of its kind at UAB; it’s historical. It is making a statement that students can benefit from standing up for what is right.”

The alliance is hosting a reception for Julian at 3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29 in the Administration Building Penthouse Conference Room. The event, which is co-sponsored by UAB Safe Zone and Gay/Straight Student Alliance (GSSA), is free and open to members of the UAB community. RSVP to

James Raper, D.S.N., J.D., associate professor, director of the 1917 Clinic and president of the LGBT Alliance, says the scholarship award is an important step.

“Our organization wanted to do this so we could make a contribution to someone within our own community and bring awareness to LGBT students at UAB who are striving to make a difference,” Raper says. “The scholarship says we care about members of our community, and we want them to do well. We are very proud to select such a wonderful inaugural awardee in Whitney.”

David Morris, a graduate assistant in microbiology and the LGBT Alliance scholarship committee chair, has led the group’s fundraising efforts. Members of the scholarship committee include Karen Placke, programmer/analyst for UAB IT Web Services and president-elect; Roberto Mayoral Hernandez, assistant professor of Foreign Languages; and Elizabeth Casswell, GSSA president.

The LGBT Alliance scholarship is endowed, but Morris says fundraising is ongoing.

“We’ve raised the minimum to be able to give $500 per year,” Morris says. “We need to raise additional funds to ensure we’re able to give $1,000 or more every year. All funds we raise at this point go directly into the endowment and earn interest for the endowment itself.”

Information about making contributions can be found online at Donations are tax-deductible.

Applications for scholarship for the 2012-13 academic year will be opened early next year. Students eligible for the scholarship must be enrolled in or admitted to a degree-granting program at UAB, earned at least a 3.0 GPA and demonstrate service to the LGBT community.

Julian is an outstanding student who contributes her time and energy to non-profit organizations, particularly those advocating for women’s and LGBT rights. She is the vice president of the GSSA and involved in Equality Alabama, the Alabama National Organization of Women and Birmingham’s Young Nonprofit Professionals Network.

“I do spend the majority of my time thinking about, researching and advocating for women and the LGBT community, because I have been negatively affected my whole life just for being a part of both of those communities,” Julian says. “Activism is something that will always be a coping skill for me — being proactive rather than reactive.”

Future scholarships

Placke says the group hopes to increase its scholarship in coming years.

“I personally would love to extend more scholarships,” says Placke, who would like to offer at least two scholarships next year.

Raper says the support of UAB and the Birmingham community has been extremely important to its early success.

“Raising $10,000 was a bit of a challenge, but we were able to do that and get it endowed within a two-year period,” Raper says. “I think that speaks pretty well to the community on campus and in Birmingham that contributed. We encourage anyone who has a desire to be a part of our efforts to join our group.”

The alliance has approximately 150 members. Send an email to for membership information; there is no fee to join, and membership is confidential.

Monthly business meetings are held at noon on the second Thursday of the month, and social events and special presentations are held occasionally.

More information is online at