Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM) faculty member Ray Rea was awarded the Inter Faculty Organization’s (IFO) 2016 James Eric Chalgren Award on April 1. Ray is an Associate Professor of Film/Video Production at MSUM and a long-time member of the IFO Issues Committee (2009-2015). The James Eric Chalgren Award recognizes an IFO member who has improved the professional lives of LGBT faculty through leadership, and activism at the campus and statewide level. As an out and visible transgender man, artist, and faculty member at MSUM, Ray has used his voice, art, and personal experience to raise awareness around LGBT issues and create a more inclusive environment on his campus and in the Fargo-Moorhead community.
When accepting the award Ray said, “I’m so proud to be part of an organization that has so strongly advocated for the trans community. I’m proud of the progress we have been able to accomplish by sticking together as a united voice against discrimination.”
Ray became the first MSUM Equity Committee Chair in 2009 and served until 2015. He led efforts to safeguard the rights of LGBT faculty, female faculty, and faculty of color at MSUM. Ray has also been actively involved in curriculum development and has proposed, developed, and taught new LGBT courses, which have opened up opportunities for other faculty to add to LGBT curriculum. Ray has served as a constant source of support and an informal mentor to numerous LGBT faculty and students for many years.
Ray was instrumental in developing the IFO LGBTIQAA conferences, which opened up spaces for professional development for LGBTIQAA and other faculty who had the opportunity to attend, present research, and engage with other faculty on these important issues. The LBTAQIAA conference has become annual statewide event that has fostered interdisciplinary dialogues.
Ray’s leadership was crucial in securing transgender medical benefits to be covered for IFO faculty. This victory provided benefits to transgender individuals as they sought necessary medical care for gender transition. Ray also led the discussions with IFO leaders to advocate for a new MnSCU Preferred Name Policy. This allowed students, faculty, and staff to submit a form with a preferred name, which is then used for all MnSCU documents. Since implementation of this policy late in 2015, more than 300 students, staff, and faculty have submitted a preferred name form. This policy makes it easier for MnSCU colleges and universities to recruit, hire, retain, promote, and tenure transgender faculty.
He has also been active in advancing awareness of LGBT issues in the Fargo-Moorhead community. Ray founded a LGBT Film Festival in 2009 that became the Fargo-Moorhead LGBT Film Festival. The festival is in its 8th year and growing in its regional impact. As part of the process, Ray pulled together a diverse jury that included LGBT faculty (both MSUM and NDSU) and spoke to their expertise in selecting and programming work. LGBT film festivals play an important role in educating and raising awareness around LGBT issues.
The Inter Faculty Organization (IFO) is a union that takes professional responsibility for excellent, accessible, and inclusive public higher education in Minnesota and beyond. The IFO represents the interests, welfare, and aspirations of all faculty of the seven state universities of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system through collective bargaining, contract enforcement, and advocacy.