Disclaimer: Alison Kuah is a staff writer and former executive sports editor for the Daily. She was not involved in the writing of this article.
Hope Denese Freeman has been named the new director of the LGBT Center and will begin in that role on Monday. She will succeed former LGBT Center Director Nino Testa, who left the position in December 2016, according to an Nov. 2, 2016 Daily article. The position has been vacant since then.
Freeman previously worked for the Justice Resource Institute’s Boston Gay & Lesbian Adolescent Social Services for over six years as an outreach coordinator, youth development coordinator, community education coordinator and crisis and resource specialist. Before then, she received a Bachelor’s degree in Africana studies at Smith College, and she holds a Master of Science in management from Simmons College.
“For nearly a decade, Hope [Freeman] has committed her career to empowering and advocating on behalf of LGBTQ adults and youth, particularly LGBTQ youth of color,” an email to the Tufts community announcing her hire read. “Hope has an extensive array of experience ensuring youth are not only able to access quality and necessary care but are equipped with the tools needed to thrive, strive and succeed.”
Freeman said that LGBTQ advocacy in higher education has long been one of her career goals.
“I’ve always wanted to surround myself in kind of those environments where folks are challenging each other on different ideas,” Freeman said. “I think that we work better or learn better from each other if we’re around folks that have different ideas and different viewpoints and not just the same idea of what LGBTQ is supposed to look like. I could know from my own personal experience what it means to be an LGBTQ person, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be the same experience for another person who may be younger or older than me.”
Freeman was selected by a “super search” committee tasked with filling vacant positions in both the LGBT Center and the Women’s Center, Dean of Student Affairs Mary Pat McMahon said. The committee was co-chaired by McMahon and Career Center Executive Director Gregory Victory. According to Victory, the committee conducted the search on a national scale.
“The [finalists for the LGBT Center] were one of the strongest pools of candidates I’ve ever seen in any search. [It was a] very hard decision,” McMahon said.
McMahon added that Freeman was chosen for her inclusive perspective regarding the LGBTQ community.
“Students in particular, but also staff and faculty colleagues, felt an immediate sort of connection to her,” McMahon said. “[They] felt she would bring an expertise and an understanding, particularly around intersectionality, around class, around race, around socioeconomic issues and emerging trends in supporting LGBT community members.”
Senior Alison Kuah, a member of the hiring committee, praised Freeman for her ability to connect with LGBTQ students of different backgrounds.
“What I’m most excited about is having a director at the LGBT Center who will be able to connect with so many students who may not have found themselves traditionally in the LGBT Center,” Kuah said.
McMahon also cited Freeman’s work with LGBTQ youth in Massachusetts schools.
“Through working with LGBT youth, Hope [Freeman] has a lens that can help us think: How does the LGBT Center at Tufts also serve as a resource and community engagement partner for the city of Boston and Boston area and LGBT community members? Not just at the college level but as we think about ourselves as part of the emerging understanding of how to support different [LGBT] age groups,” McMahon said.
Freeman said that one of her goals is to explore how the LGBT Center could become a focal point for advocacy efforts by students interested in supporting LGBTQ communities beyond the Tufts campus.
“If we’re talking about federal institutions or private institutions, their climate is looking really scary for a lot of LGBTQ young people,” Freeman said. “We’re talking about the possibility of trans students’ rights being taken away, people not being respected, the possibility of same-sex couples not being recognized as parents of their children. We’re talking about real world issues that could definitely be affecting folks inside of these universities. It’s my job to make sure that these folks feel like they are being active in supporting their communities.”
Nick Whitney, a graduate student and the current interim program coordinator for the LGBT Center, said that Freeman exceeded both his own and the administration’s criteria for a new director.
“I was looking for a director who had a deep and lived acknowledgment of how queer and trans education and advocacy work is never a single-issue thing but deeply intertwined with a multiplicity of other related movements towards justice and liberation,” Whitney said. “Beyond this and in light of this, we were looking for a director who had an immediate connection with and passion for students at Tufts, since this is the central role of the LGBT Center director … Hope [Freeman] fit these descriptions and many more.”