To mark LGBTQ+ History Month and the University's 60th anniversary, we've been catching up with alumni who served as LGBTQ+ Officers for the Students' Union, a part-time role delivered alongside your studies.

Jonathan Hendry who lives in the USA, tells us about his experience in the role back in 2019.

On the left, Jonathan standing outside the University entrance and sign, a large bed of daffodils below it. On the right, a more recent photo of Jonathan in a hangar standing in front of a NASA aircraft.

What did you study, and why did you choose the University of Essex?

I chose the University of Essex because of its outstanding reputation and its location. I loved the chance to be less than an hour from London, which is one of the most well-connected cities in the world, and close to the seaside. 

I studied European Studies, which is based in the Interdisciplinary Studies Centre and allowed me to take classes from many different departments as part of my degree program.

What inspired you to stand for the LGBTQ+ officer role for the Students Union? 

I initially went to university back in Tennessee. However, when I came out in the summer following my first year, I was promptly expelled and banned from campus as the President felt the school could not afford to have anyone 'who felt that way' on campus. 

When the opportunity came to fill this role, I knew it would be the perfect way to make sure a new generation of students could feel supported in a way that I had not been. 

What were your hopes going in the role, did you have any specific goals? 

My main objective was to provide support to members of the community and facilitate connections to help reduce loneliness, especially among incoming students. Thankfully, the Students' Union was onboard with this plan and made sure we had all the resources we needed to make that happen. 

Can you talk a bit about what your proudest achievement was in your role as officer?

The most fulfilling moment for me was the times we brought together other communities in support of Pride month celebrations. Specifically, the Lakeside Theatre invitation for us to co-host an open mic night and the Art Exchange’s events highlighting the works of Claude Cahun and Iris G.

How did your experience impact your personal and professional growth? 

One of the most valuable experiences I gained was confidence in my ability as a public speaker through hosting events, participating in Student Parliament, and briefing university staff. In my current role as a Journalist at Simple Flying, I am regularly required to enter a room where I know nobody and forge connections, a skill I developed as an SU officer through countless meetings and planning sessions. 

Serving in this role equally reminded me of how much progress there is still to make and emboldened me to continue seeking opportunities to make a difference long after graduation.