Winona State becomes new location for Minnesota OUT! Campus Conference

Zach Bailey

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Zach Bailey/Winonan

Whether it is a fraternity or sorority, politically based, writing intensive or even lifestyle related, Winona State University has an abundance of clubs.

One such club, full spectrum, formerly known as GLBTA partnership, began at Winona State about seven years ago. The group hosts events every few weeks around campus and is known for its community involvement.

Their involvement is taking its next step up the weekend of Nov. 13 through 15, as the club helps host and plan the annual Minnesota OUT! Campus Conference (MOCC).

This year will be the first decade marker for the conference, but this will be the first time that the conference is being hosted by Winona State.

Leah Bentfield, 2015 Winona State alumna and one of the heads of the conference, said she is excited to bring the conference to Winona State.

“Locality is one of the main reasons I wanted to be a part of this. It’s nice to get the Twin Cities involved, but it sometimes makes it harder to get southern Minnesotans involved in the conference,” Bentfield said.

Having the conference on Winona State’s campus, Bentfield said, is a good opportunity for not only Winona State students to get involved and learn more about the LGBTQ community, but also for more southern Midwest colleges, such as the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Viterbo University, to get involved.

“Not only did I want to help put this on for the locality,” Bentfield said, “But I also know how much work full spectrum puts into their events, and I wanted it to be known and see all their hard work pay off.”

After applying to host this year’s conference, it was announced in January 2015 that this year’s Minnesota OUT! Campus Conference would be held at Winona State.

The conference is open to the public and completely free for students, but non-students have a $30 entry fee.

One of the aspects Bentfield said she loves most about the conference, is how it is mostly people from around the area that attend, making the conference able to speak on more local issues, instead of looking at things from a nationwide standpoint.

“Just because we won the right for marriage, doesn’t mean equity for all has been obtained,” Bentfield said.

Speaking on issues such as how to handle LGBTQ problems on campus, at high schools and in the community are among the things the conference speaks on and helps with. Winona State students who attended the conference in the past have brought back lots of important knowledge, most of which have been key discussion points for full spectrum, Bentfield said.

“Being able to have conversations about change, and then make the change at home is just amazing,” Bentfield said. “Having the conference local makes it much more accessible for students, not only that, but it also gives everyone the ability to connect with people you might see everyday, but not know much about.”

Since joining full spectrum her freshman year at Winona State, Bentfield said she has attended the conference two times since then and hoped to go more, but she was not able to due to other commitments during the time of the conference.

Bentfield said conference organizers hope to continue what was started this year and have other places around Minnesota host the conference each year to have the presence of the conference spread through the state.

Some of the other possible venues for the conference include Moorehead State University and Southwest Minnesota State University, Bentfield said.