As members of Elon University’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Ally (LGBTQIA) Alumni Network, Elon University graduates Ashley Fowler ’14 and Jon Shutt ’05 created Ignite, the official blog of the network, to enhance the community and encourage its members to contribute. 

“We wanted to give our network members a voice and a way to connect, share and interact with each other,” Shutt said.

Launched Feb. 2, the blog’s founders intend to foster a community of love, acceptance and safety and to act as a safeguard against troubling circumstances that Alumni Network members and the rest of the LGBTQIA community members face during their daily lives.

The blog aims to  remind and motivate its members to rely on one another for optimal success and happiness.

“In a world that is filled with such hate, it’s more important than ever that LGBTQIA people feel like they have a community — a safe space,” Fowler said.

In the first blog post, Fowler and Shutt authored an article to expand upon the importance of community in the face of chaos and hardship.

The authors begin the blog entry describing tumultuous events that have recently affected the LGBTQIA community as well as the Elon community at large. With 49 people killed at the gay nightclub Pulse in June 2016, President Donald Trump’s apathy toward the LGBTQIA community and the death of Elon’s President Emeritus, Dr. J. Earl Danieley, the LGBTQIA community has experienced shock, perplexity and fear. 

But the blog post proceeds to explain how in the face of tragedy, the LGBTQIA community has become stronger, more unified and more eager to counter this hate. The chaos around the LGBTQIA community has produced a strong sense of trust among them.

The blog’s founders intends to enhance this community’s desire to continue helping and encouraging its members.

“Many of us face similar struggles, and this blog will provide a place that allows people to share stories of hope,” Fowler said.

Another reason why Shutt and Fowler wanted to start this blog was to facilitate relationships — those within the Alumni Network and those between current Elon students and graduates.

“We’re really hoping that more in-depth content will help to engage more people within the network, to reconnect with friends and maybe make some new ones,” Shutt said. “The blog may also serve as a good bridge between current students and alumni, a way for them to be more involved with each other and a way for everyone to support each other.”

Stemming from Elon’s Office of Alumni Engagement and the Gender & LGBTQIA Center, the Alumni Network was created five years ago to build a support system for the university and its LGBTQIA students.

“[The network] produced a larger group of alumni who work to support each other as best as possible and who can represent the interest of that group to the university as a whole,” Shutt said.

With more than 300 Elon alumni, the network promotes and continues Elon’s adherence to an inclusive and respectful community while advocating on behalf of LGBTQIA issues.

Some of the Alumni Network’s goals include revealing contributions of Elon alumni, supporting LGBTQIA resources at the university, acknowledging the successes of LGBTQIA community members and encouraging the inclusion of LGBTQIA members. This blog reflects the Alumni Network’s initiatives.

Before becoming a member of the Alumni Network and developing Ignite, Shutt studied communications at Elon. Since January 2016, Shutt has been a part of the LGBTQIA Alumni Network as a chair of the communications committee on the Leadership Team.

After graduating Elon with a double major in political science and international studies, Fowler has been a part of the Alumni Network. She is also currently working as a member of the communications subdivision of the Leadership Team, which is comprised of 10 members.

As for the future of the blog, the authors hope it develops as a professional medium with more frequent content. They hope to feature guest appearances, relevant news, alumni’s contributions and entertainment such as art and music.

“I really hope that the blog becomes a place in which people can find something to read and engage with, something that will remind them of their good times at Elon and something that will inspire them to be a part of this great LGBTQIA community we have,” Shutt said.