Clutching the steering wheel of his mother’s silver Honda Civic, Nicholas Harris drove toward Bloomington after Thanksgiving break in 2014 with his mother in the passenger seat and a compulsion in his heart.
Harris was a sophomore in the Kelley School of Business and doing well. His grades were stellar, he interned for the Bloomington Community Orchard and started seeing someone two months beforehand.
As he developed his identity in college, though, Harris felt the strain of inauthenticity after a lifetime of hiding a part of his identity.
“I’m gay,” he said.
Nearly two years later, Harris stood before a group of nearly 40 professionals as the event coordinator for Out at Kelley, an LGBT-oriented student organization.
“I am so happy that I have found an organization that I’m so proud of,” he said.
A group of 40 recruiters, students and young professionals engaged in conversation and professional development as part of Out at Kelley’s “Networking Night” Thursday in the Kelley School of Business.
Recruiters from Eli Lilly and Company, PwC, Ernst & Young, Cook Medical and Cummins were in attendance to scout talent and discuss the importance of diversity in their respective companies.
Ron Mobley, vice president of diversity and inclusion for Cook Medical, said the company is actively working to raise its level of diversity to create a inclusive space for its employees.
“As with all diversity, we’re looking for diversity of perspectives, diversity of opinion, thoughts, processes, everything,” Mobley said.
“So it’s more than just the LGBT community; its all of our communities.”
As an underclassman, Harris said he hated answering one question in professional interviews: tell me about yourself. He had not yet come out as gay.
Out at Kelley, a student organization dedicated to the creation of a safe space for LGBT business students had become dormant.
After beginning in 2009, the student group stopped operating after two years due to a lack of membership.
After coming out to his mother in 2014, Harris became involved in the reconstruction of Out at Kelley to fulfill a requirement for a business leadership class.
Today, Harris said his efforts in organizing the group’s events mean more to him than a grade on his transcript.
Daniel Chang, a junior majoring in management and marketing, said his identity as an LGBT individual has enriched his experience as an resident assistant.
This same identity has helped him in pursuing his professional aspirations in seeking an internship with his dream business, The Walt Disney Company.
“Looking toward the future, I will talk about being an LGBT — I think that is a part of me that allows me to connect with other individuals because they realize again everyone has their own story,” Chang said.
While the event marks the end of a successful night for Out at Kelley, for Harris it is only the beginning of his programming duties.
In late March, Out at Kelley will host “Dinner with a Professor,” a networking event where students and professors come together to share food and conversation.
During the first week of April, Harris has organized an Ally Invasion Week to identify heterosexual business students who create awareness around existing support systems for their LGBT peers.
As an individual, Harris is constructing his life as a business man living in his authenticity.
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