LGBTQIA+ students, allies are ‘Out for Business’ with new student org


Photo courtesy of Katelyn Butler

Out for Business’ e-board, from left to right: Kaitlyn Murray, Logan Dawson, Mari Romund and Katelyn Butler.

New student organization Out for Business (OFB) has united a team of ambitious student leaders and the mentorship of OU’s Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC) toward a common goal of establishing a safe space on campus for LGBTQIA+ students and allies to expand their professional networks and repertoire.

President Mari Romund felt compelled to found the organization after noticing a gap in the university’s arsenal of business-oriented organizations where students could access LGBTQIA-specific resources to aid in their professional and personal development.

“I wanted something that was social and was a safe space for LGBTQIA+ students, but also honed in the reason we’re at college — to find jobs to make those connections,” Romund said. “[…] The job search specifically tends to be different for queer and trans students, and I know a lot of us have anxiety starting that job search, putting ourselves out there, our resumes out there, because we’re not sure how it works for our situation. […] Having a place to talk to peers where we’ve been through those experiences and they can ask those questions, I thought was really important.”

Romund and their cofounders on the executive board were also determined to establish an environment which eased many of the apprehensions students have toward seeking pre-professional mentorship. From cultivating a comforting ambience for their meeting space in the GSC to prioritizing peer-led mentorship designed to feel less intimidating than other modes of career preparation, the group is very intentional in their efforts to redefine what pre-professional development can look like at OU.

Students of all majors and professional tracks are welcome to join OFB. For those who have yet to venture far into any particular career path, Treasurer Katelyn Butler emphasizes the value skills like networking and writing hold long before the job market demands them of applicants.

“As long as you are looking for an internship, a job, a position, anything that you would have to apply or develop within your career — this organization would be able to help you to develop and to network with others and navigate doing that as a queer person or as an ally,” Butler said. “Also, the skills that we’re trying to develop within other students are also skills that they’re able to use during their academic career, as well. So, networking, writing emails — you have to know how to do that as a student, not just in the professional world.”

Prior to the advent of OFB, the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) was the only official, active LGBTQIA+ organization at OU. Romund and Butler — the former president and current vice president of the GSA, respectively — each cited this lack of representation as a significant factor motivating their involvement with OFB.

“Previously we had so many [LGBTQIA+ organizations] — we had the Queer Film Group, we had Transcend, and those have kind of fallen off in the last few years, and I understand,” Romund said. “I think [in] the 2010s we needed a lot of support for these students, and we still do, but I feel like the focus is shifting from allowing them to be present to, now, we want to propel them forward.”

OFB’s first event was a Career Round Table in early February geared at helping students prepare for the Winter Career Fair. Students were treated to tea and free to branch off to work and receive help on anything from resumes to LinkedIn profiles and mentor outreach.

The organization convened for a second time on Feb. 9 for a forum-based discussion focused on interviewing experiences, tips and tricks. Following a third installment themed around Speed Networking on Feb. 16, the group intends to round out their first semester with some guest speaker events — including a special Pride Month event titled “Out at Work.”

“The topic [of] ‘Out at Work’ is really gonna be about being out physically at your workplace, but also being your authentic, queer self while still being professional, because I feel like there’s this notion that queerness and queer culture is inherently unprofessional,” Romund said, “so we want to take steps to kind of break down that mindset that can still exist in some places.”To keep up-to-date with OFB’s weekly programming — including Animal Crossing-themed financial management advice and “The Office” inspired “office olympics” on the way this semester — follow them on Instagram @outforbusiness_ou and check out their GrizzOrgs page.