Alumni Spotlight: Brian Paul Allen ’17

Brian is a Denison alumnus who graduated in 2017 with a degree in Anthropology and Sociology. His senior thesis titled “Gimme the T: Transgender Student Experiences at Denison University,” served as a recommendation guide for the Senior Staff at Denison to better serve transgender students at the university. During his time at Denison, Brian accomplished many impressive things, including leading Outlook, co-founding and serving as the President of DIG (the Diversity and Inclusion Group for Student-Athletes), serving as Chair of the Gender Neutral Housing Committee, and holding a four-year membership with the Campus Affairs Council. Brian was also a National Champion Diver and 6-time All-American Diver for the Denison swimming and diving team. Following his graduation from Denison, Brian went on to pursue a Master’s Degree in Higher Education at The Ohio State University, which he completed in 2019.

After attending graduate school, Brian worked as a Development Associate at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business to foster donor and alumni engagement. He currently works as a Fundraising Consultant for CCS Fundraising in New York City. He also continues to serve as a Steering Committee Member of Denison Pride, which is Denison’s LGBTQIA Alumni Association.

Here is Brian’s career and life advice to Denison students who are members of the LGBTQIA community:

1. Seek what animates you.

Do the thing that you are excited to do when you wake up in the morning. This sounds lofty and like “oh sure Brian, whatever,” but it doesn’t have to be so meta. You can find happiness or a thing that animates you outside of your professional life while you are still establishing yourself. I know that as a young individual you gotta pay the bills, so do what you have to do to ensure your financial stability and safety, while keeping in mind that when you are also doing things that animate you, that you will be most fulfilled. You wanna know a secret… @adamatdenison told me that my senior year over coffee. It has served me well.

2. Think about your foundation.

Every college graduate should read “The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter — and How to Make the Most of Them Now” by Meg Jay (ask the Knowlton Center to purchase a copy for you!). Your 20’s may be the most difficult decade of your life because you are still developing psychologically and physiologically but you are also being asked to do “adult” things that others have been doing for years! There is tension in this. That is okay! Think about how you want to establish a foundation for your life and make choices to lay a foundation for your adult life. Think of your life as if you are building a house — through college you are creating the blueprint that will guide you when you begin building (it is okay if plans change, they always do), your twenties are when you have decided on a layout and you are beginning to pour the concrete and build up walls that are sturdy, and so on. Your house only stands upon a good foundation with strong walls to hold onto the weight of life.

3. You are going to eff up… that is okay.

Mistakes will be had. That is okay. It is what you learn from your mistakes, how you devise plans to ensure you don’t make the same mistakes, and how you move forward and grow from them that counts. Every moment, every interaction, every opportunity for feedback positive or constructive is an opportunity to learn and grow. Embrace those opportunities.

4. Get coffee.

So, you have landed the job. Congratulations. In your first two weeks – a month you should be very much over-caffeinated. By this I mean, take the initiative to reach out to people on your team, people who are not on your team, and (most importantly in my opinion), the leadership of the organization you work for. Yes it is OKAY to email the president/CEO for coffee, especially when you are new. Ask questions — why do you work here? What do you like about it? What are some challenges the company faces? How can I best position myself to be a leader or active contributor? What are the pitfalls I should avoid?

5. Your identity and you.

It is important that you feel safe, validated, and welcomed as it relates to any aspect of your identity at the workplace. Whether race, ethnicity, gender identity / gender expression, sexuality or otherwise. This is also something that inherently, especially in corporate America, is hard to find being done exceptionally well. The best advice I can offer is to seek out data during and before the interview process. A “good” employer should be able to answer your questions from the onset. Ask questions that will give you data about how the company thinks about its LGBTQ+ employees such as, what sort of employee resource groups do you offer at this organization? Are their benefits for domestic partnerships? Can you provide me with detailed information about your healthcare and benefits for employees? These questions are great because they don’t necessarily “out” you during the interview process — everyone should be asking about these resources at a company when interviewing. If you feel safe and you have gotten signals that it is okay to be more direct, you can shift the language — Is there an LGBTQ+ resource group for employees? Do you recognize same-sex marriage in your benefits? Do you offer trans-inclusive healthcare options for employees? Can you connect me with someone in the LGBTQ+ resource group I can speak with during the interview process?

At the end of the day, if you do not feel safe or question whether you could ask those questions without jeopardizing your status as a candidate, you need to ask yourself — is this a place I can truly see myself at and thrive. This also relates back to point one — will it animate you? This is not fair and we (as LGBTQ+ people) should not have to worry about this, but until true equity is achieved, we have to navigate the already complex job world with extra strategies in mind. One of the best places you can find resources is through your Denison alumni network, like Denison Pride. The committee members have a diverse background of professional and personal experiences and have networks that reach every inch of the globe. Reach out and talk with us and we can help you navigate the process.

Connect with Brian on LinkedIn

By Fiona Schultz
Fiona Schultz Peer Career Coach and Peer Fellow: Nonprofit, Education and Government Career Community