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Mixed-media artist ALOK was named the inaugural Scholar in Residence by Penn’s LGBT center (Photo by Eivind Hansen | CC0 1.0).

Penn’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center announced its first-ever scholar in residence following an anonymous $2 million gift to the center. 

The Scholar in Residence program is the first residency of its kind at any university in the United States, according to Penn Today. The program — which will launch in April with ALOK — aims to invite prominent LGBTQ leaders to Penn. 

ALOK is “an internationally acclaimed author, poet, comedian, and public speaker, whose work explores themes of trauma, belonging, and the human condition,” according to Penn Today. In addition to publishing "Femme in Public," "Beyond the Gender Binary," and "Your Wound/My Garden," they have toured more than 40 countries over the past decade. 

"In the face of escalating malalignment we see a widening chasm between the reality of LGBTQ+ lives and the misrepresentation of our communities in media and society," ALOK told Penn Today. "As LGBTQ+ scholars and artists we must continue to debunk anti-LGBTQ+ misinformation while also harnessing the power of LGBTQ+ storytelling to create a more inclusive and magnificent world. I'm looking forward to connecting with Penn students, faculty, and staff to celebrate the living poetry of our existence in these turbulent times."

ALOK was chosen by a student-driven advisory board in collaboration with Penn faculty and staff. The scholar program may vary from a short visit from an activist to a scholar teaching semester-long class, according to Penn Today. During their time at Penn, ALOK will guest teach in Penn's undergraduate and graduate programs, share meals with students, and perform. 

“I’m really excited to see more South Asian nonbinary academics on campus, especially someone that is unapologetically themselves,” College first year Haydr Dutta, who is part of the LGBT Center’s transgender and nonbinary committee, told The Daily Pennsylvanian. “It is really inspiring to see the work they do and I look forward to welcoming them to Penn. I’m personally looking forward to the workshops they will be doing with students.” 

Campus Pride recently named Penn a “Best Of The Best” college and university for LGBTQ students. The LGBT Center recently celebrated its 40th anniversary and is the second-oldest center of its kind in the United States.

“It is important to recognize that the residency will amplify student voices as well,” Erin Cross, the director of the LGBT Center, told Penn Today. “According to Penn data, LBGTQ+ students comprise one of the largest minoritized campus populations. Now with this wonderful gift, the Scholar in Residence will bring LGBTQ+ experiences into the spotlight."