The Role Model

by | Jul 1, 2023 | 0 comments

  • The Role Model
  • The Nelson Institute at UW-Madison announced Tai as their next associate dean for education and faculty affairs in May

I am a law professor at the University of Wisconsin. I am also now the new UW Associate Dean for the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. What this means is that I oversee a large, interdisciplinary academic program devoted to teaching and research related to environmental studies.

A large part of why I wanted to serve in this role was to help us address climate change. Climate change is threatening lives around the world, especially those who are LGTBQ+, POC, or live in the Global South. The impacts of climate change—loss of health, food, and opportunities for housing and education—affect those in marginalized communities. It is a queer and POC/Global South emergency. The folks who will suffer the most from climate change impacts are those who already have the least infrastructural support. And that is us queer/POC folks. We will be the ones who lack access to sufficient health care, food, employment, and educational opportunities because of climate change.

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Thus, I welcome my new opportunity to be a potential role model for students from underrepresented backgrounds who can be leaders in addressing these problems, and to expand access to this program to queer/POC/Global South students. I do so from standing on the shoulders of giants. My academic mentor, Mario Molina, rest in peace, who was the first Mexican American awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on discovering the ozone hole, had this to say: “Many Latino kids should become scientists because we need scientists all over the world from all different backgrounds.” I want to follow in his footsteps and provide both access and opportunities for queer/POC/Global South students, not only to help these students, but to improve the development of academic knowledge overall.

All of this is important. Research, education, and actual political work regarding climate change will benefit everyone, but especially those in queer/POC/Global South. I am honored and excited to be a part of that effort. At the same time, I recognize—especially as a law professor—that right now not only is the environment and our future sustainability under attack, but so are LGBTQ+ lives. As much as I wish I could focus all my efforts on climate change, I also recognize that I need to do what I can to support my community. So to this end, I have worked on expanding university support for advocating for those who seek insurance coverage for transition care (see, e.g., work now being done at the University of Wisconsin Center for Patient Partnerships), as well as expanding support within UW for LGBTQ+ members in general.

2023 Pride in Color

The ChampionChris Allen is President and CEO of Diverse & Resilient where he continues his vision and advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights and health equity.

The Change MakerKaleb Hawj is a prominent trans leader in the Hmong Queer Feminist Movement and is shaping the way the Hmong community protects, celebrates, and loves Hmong LGBTQI+ people.

The Community OrganizerJennifer Morales brings creativity and queer culture to rural life while making real change at the policy level for queer families nationwide.

The Role ModelSteph Tai is trying to help fight the fight against climate change.

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