Elischer and Rivetto receive MSU Extension Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Impact Award
Melissa Elischer and Laurie Rivetto were honored for their work in LGBTQIA+ programming during the annual Fall Extension Conference held virtually on Sept. 28.
The Michigan State University Extension Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Impact Award recognizes MSU Extension staff members for excellence in supporting diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. Melissa Elischer and Laurie Rivetto were honored for their work in LGBTQIA+ programming during the annual Fall Extension Conference held virtually on Sept. 28.
Melissa Elischer and Laurie Rivetto are Michigan State University Extension educators: Melissa in the area of 4-H dairy cattle and Laurie in 4-H career exploration and workforce preparation.
To support MSU Extension’s efforts to be inclusive and affirming to LGBTQIA+ adults, youth, and families in programming, Melissa and Laurie were champions of the endeavor to create the Guide for Inclusion of Individuals of All Gender Identities, Gender Expressions, Sexual Orientations and Sexes, beginning in 2017 and delivered statewide in February 2021. More than 300 MSU Extension staff members participated in 19 Inclusion Guide Dialogues facilitated by Melissa and Laurie. These dialogues help us support and welcome all MSU Extension programs. Champions (co-facilitators) discussed specific examples within the organization of discrimination or nonaffirming behavior. Dialogues were limited to 25 participants with small groups in breakout rooms. Large group discussion rounded out the dialogues. Many positives resulted from these dialogues. One included the creation of a common language and base for learning across MSU Extension. Melissa and Laurie heard from members of the LGBTQIA+ community that the inclusion guide and conversations around pronouns, gender identity, and related topics increased their comfort in the workplace, allowing them to more fully be their authentic selves.
The guide was initially created to advise 4-H and the Children and Youth Institute. Laurie and Melissa saw that this guide could in turn be effective in all institutes and by partnering with institute champions, they were able to roll it out Extension-wide. This has created a sustained interest in LGBTQIA+ inclusion in those institutes, many creating additional professional development opportunities for their staff.
Melissa Elischer and Laurie Rivetto are committed to seeing the important element of inclusion woven into the fiber of MSU Extension. Their professionalism and approach to the development of the guide and their continued perseverance is a true example of the influence that staff can have in ensuring change within an organization. They are deserving of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Impact Award.