LGBT Plus College Conference ‘Standing Strong’ set...

LGBT Plus College Conference ‘Standing Strong’ set for April 4-6 on campus at MTSU

LGBT Plus College Conference 2024

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — “Standing Strong” for diversity and inclusion is the focus of the 2024 LGBT Plus College Conference, set for Thursday-Saturday, April 4-6, on campus at Middle Tennessee State University.

Dr. William Langston, psychology professor
Dr. Will Langston

The theme is a nod to the ongoing legislation against diversity, equity and inclusion programs at the local, state and federal levels.

“The basic idea is there’s an onslaught of bad news of late and the goal of the conference is to explore ways to push back against that and hold your ground,” said psychology professor William Langston, one of the conference organizers.

The three-day conference will be offered in person and virtually, and features educational presentations, panel discussions and daily keynote events. Programs will be available in braille as well as accessible for those with assistive technology.

All events will be held in the second-level ballrooms and meeting spaces in the Student Union Building, 1768 MTSU Blvd. Registration and check-in start at 8:45 a.m. Thursday, April 4.

Off-campus visitors planning to attend should obtain a special one-day permit from MTSU’s Office of Parking and Transportation at Free parking is available in the Rutherford Boulevard parking lots, with free Raider Xpress shuttle service running periodically to the interior of campus, as well as the lot across from the Student Union.

Conference highlights

• The conference then kicks off  with Nashville Queer History founder and MTSU alumna Sarah Calise.

Sarah Calise
Sarah Calise
Dr. Eric Hughes
Dr. Eric Hughes
Dr. Candace Lapan
Dr. Candace Lapan

• Following the opening remarks, English lecturer Eric Hughes, founder of The Lavender Closet Project for gender-affirming clothing, will spotlight contemporary literature focused on how the AIDS crisis of the 1980s is portrayed now.

• Wingate University psychology professor Candace Lapan will give a pre-lunch talk on “Creating a Welcoming Island in a Sea of Prejudice: How to Support LGBTQ+ Students and Employees in Non-inclusive Communities.”

• After lunch, the Tennessee Pride Chamber will host a panel focused on crisis communication, and the importance of advocacy and diversity within business operations, Langston explained.

Allie Sultan
Dr. Gary Wright
Dr. Gary Wright

• Gary Wright, an assistant professor of science education in the Department of Learning, Teaching and Curriculum at the University of Missouri, will lecture about empowering LGBTQ youth with STEM education.

• Thursday’s final event starts at 6 p.m. with the LGBT Plus College Conference Film Festival hosted by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Allie Sultan of MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment.

• On Friday, the events get underway at 9:30 a.m. with a panel on neurodivergent and LGBTQ+ identities. This will feature a look at the experience of adults who are neurodivergent and transgender or nonbinary in accessing medical care, presented by a researcher from the U.K., Katie Munday.

Daresha Kyi
Daresha Kyi
Katie Munday

• A Friday luncheon will feature a keynote presentation on “Mama Bears,” a documentary exploration of conservative Christian mothers who have become fierce advocates for the LGBTQ community. There will also be a panel discussion with the filmmaker Daresha Kyi.

• On Friday afternoon, there will be a strategy session with faculty from the University of Houston who have been instrumental in maintaining support for students affected in the wake of the Texas legislature’s efforts to end diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

“What we’re going to do is brainstorm ways to offer services and support to students in case the Tennessee legislature makes it harder,” Langston said. “We want to be ready at MTSU.”

“We are graded on retention, persistence and graduation rates,” Langston said, “and there is a lot of evidence that helping students feel a sense of belonging and engagement improves outcomes.”

St. Clair Detrick-Jules
St. Clair Detrick-Jules

• At 10:45 a.m. Saturday, author, filmmaker and photographer St. Clair Detrick-Jules will offer the community keynote address, “My Beautiful Black Hair: 101 Natural Hair Stories from the Sisterhood,” a presentation that references her book of the same name. She is also the final event connected to the 2024 National Women’s History Month activities at MTSU.  

“We’re all in this together. Whether you’re in a minoritized group or not, we all want the same thing — to live our own lives as we see fit,” Langston said.

For more information on accessing the event and a complete list of event programming, including a downloadable program, visit the conference website and register at

Presenting sponsors for the conference include Nissan Group of the Americas and theStudent Activity Fee Committee, as well as MTSU’sInstitutional and Equity Compliance. For a complete list of sponsors, visit the conference website,

— Nancy DeGennaro (