Person of the Year: Kelsey Gasseling
Two-term president of the GLC advances causes through model leadership: openness and diplomacy
Published: Thursday, May 5, 2011
Updated: Thursday, May 2, 2013 01:05
Gasseling came to the realization about her sexual orientation during her junior year at Jesuit Bellarmine Preparatory School. “It was a quick realization for me, but it was followed by months of distress. I found it difficult at time to reconcile with my Catholic upbringing. It was even more difficult to have it come to define me in the hyper-masculine, hyper-feminine environment of high school.” She credits her mother, Lisa Allen, with providing her needed support.
A product of Catholic education since kindergarten, Kelsey appreciates the ethics and morals of the Catholic Church, but has taken issue with some Church doctrine. Numerous times she abandoned the Church, though always came back, further discerning her faith.
“Something about it just makes me feel comfortable,” she said.
That sense of comfort influenced her decision to enroll at BC. The Catholic emphasis on morality and justice appealed to her. Specifically, the Jesuit approach to personal formation and overcoming injustice was attractive. “I love the Jesuit concern for social justice and bringing about peace. I am passionate about serving others and overcoming injustices. I desired to further explore resolving social justice issues and I knew BC, as a Jesuit university, would be a perfect choice.”
Arriving on BC’s campus for orientation, her experience placed her almost immediately in a position to respond to the social issues she sought to learn to address during her college experience. “My orientation leader was openly gay as well as another member of my group, so I too decided to share, and from there it went.”
Her early public acknowledgement led to her quick assumption of leadership on campus, both formally and informally.
Gasseling was involved with GLTBQ Council before the school year had begun, and her outspokenness encouraged others to acknowledge their sexual orientation. In her first semester, both a friend and her RA came out to her. “It was quite shocking, actually. I never expected to be placed in such a position, but for many, I was the first openly queer peer they had met.”
Gasseling’s support and care for her peers continued beyond her freshman year and defined her four years at BC. She has been involved as a Positive Bystander Education Program instructor, a Sexual Assault Network member, a resident assistant, and a GLTBQ Leadership Council (GLC) member. “Much of my work involves students just not taking care of themselves or others. My work is about ensuring an environment where students feel safe and respected.”
Her most notable work, however, has been with developing the GLC. In her junior year, she was elected as president of the GLC, a position she retained her senior year. During her tenure, she brought stability, direction, and progress to the organization, which struggled since its establishment in 2005.
“When I joined, GLC was a much smaller, less publicized organization with some animosity towards the administration. Some members were combative with a ‘fight against the man’ mentality. It turned me and others off the organization,” she said.
Gasseling, inspired by the initial work of her predecessor Celso Perez, worked to change the formerly militant approach of the organization, and achieved considerable success. She increased the organization’s campus presence, brought about GLTBQ awareness through the Day of Silence campaign, and hosted the GLC Ball for a second consecutive year.
Many find her to be a model for leadership: a true diplomat who works to foster positive, progressive conversations on a myriad of human rights and self-identity issues, some of them sensitive.
“I have had Kelsey as a student for all of her four years hear,” said Margaret Thomas, associate professor of Slavic and eastern languages. “She is a natural leader who is self-professed and open-minded. I do not think she has a dogmatic bone in her body. She has great personal warmth. She is perceptive and sympathetic, a true diplomat.”
“Kelsey carries herself in such a mature way,” said Patrick Rombalski, vice president of student affairs. “She is always respectful of administrators, faculty, and peers. With Kelsey, it is like you are working with a colleague. She acknowledges and understands the perspectives of others. She works beyond her emotions, desiring to make progress.”
Gasseling’s diplomacy has been credited for her success during her two-year tenure as president of GLC during which she achieved significant growth of the organization and increased organizational awareness on campus. She continued the GLC Ball for a second consecutive year, and promoted the Day of Silence for GLTBQ awareness. She also worked to foster conversation about larger issues such as identity, rights, and sexuality by collaborating with culture clubs for events such as the Organization for Latin American Affairs for “From Closet to Classroom.”
For Kelsey, however, her work is about more than providing support for members of the GLTBQ community, as is evident in not only her other activities, but through her major in linguistic studies. This drive is about addressing general human rights issues—sexuality being merely one of them. “I work toward basic human rights, including the right to live according to one’s sexual orientation.”
Though Gasseling shall depart from BC, her dedication to human rights will continue. She will spend the next year teaching in Madrid through the Spanish Ministry of Education. She then plans on pursuing involvement in the Peace Corp.
Reflecting on her work to overcome injustices during her time at BC, Gasseling admits that her experience could have easily been different had she denied her sexual orientation.
“I could have easily been comfortable inside of the bubble, not addressing my problems,” she said. “I think most people are in the bubble until hardship occurs. It can be troubling when that hardship occurs and you are faced with reality, especially if the reality is something over which you have no control. Once the bubble bursts, I find they work to positively change the world in which they are placed.” ♦