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While at Warren Wilson College, Gregory Wilkins co-founded the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender group that is now called Empower, and soon after he graduated he began volunteering as a “buddy”—caring for and supporting patients with HIV and AIDS. He has lobbied the U.S. Congress on sexual orientation and gender equality with the Human Rights Campaign and he helped pass the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDSResources Emergency (CARE) Act, which improves the availability and quality of care to those with HIV and AIDS. Greg has since worked nationally and abroad on a diverse range of issues such as HIV and AIDS education, landmine proliferation, and U.S. and Mexico immigration laws. “We have a responsibility to help those less fortunate than ourselves,” he explains, “We have a responsibility to make the world a better place.”
Besides jump-starting his interest in activism, Warren Wilson and the Triad introduced Greg to other valuable beliefs. “Being a life-long learner puts you in the driver’s seat,” he says, “and makes you the master of your own destiny. Also, being multi-talented offers you many opportunities in the work force and in life. Being at Warren Wilson allowed me to try multiple options—this helped me learn that if one door closes there are many other possibilities.” The ability to look past closed doors has been crucial for Greg, who has seen many throughout his career.
“Being out and proud as a gay man in the 80s was a difficult choice,” he reflects, “especially during the height of the AIDS crisis. My family was concerned that I was not going to get a job, housing, or fair treatment. I even had colleagues say that I should disguise my resume and not be ‘so open’ with my activities and work in the gay community. But I was not going to lie about the person I am—if someone was not going to hire me because I’m gay, it was their loss.
“I found that some doors were closed because of my sexual orientation, and this is a blessing. I have been given the opportunity to work in places and organizations that celebrate the man I am. Living a life of honesty and integrity has allowed me to work for some amazing people, and it has opened more doors than it has closed. Being gay is not something I have ‘overcome’ in the work force, but rather it has provided me new friends, colleagues, networks and insights.”
Greg has worked at colleges and universities in North Carolina, Ohio, Washington state, Minnesota, California, Florida and Washington, DC. Most of his experience lies in the operations department—overseeing staffing, maintenance, and facility renovations—and in student activities and residence life. He has also worked for two Olympics: in 1988 he coordinated travel for the U.S. Equestrian Team, and in 1996 he was a supervisor for Athlete Services, providing for the comfort of Olympic soccer players.
Currently, Greg works as the associate director of Student Activities at Minnesota State University Mankato. He programs concerts, films, comedy shows, lectures, and other special events for 14,000 students and also works with fraternities and sororities, nontraditional students, and off-campus housing. “I love what I do,” Greg says, “because I impact the lives of the one and the many, creating future leaders across the globe.”
Greg is glad to answer questions about his experiences, be a mentor to students, and help students explore jobs, internships, and graduate school. You can find him on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Naymz or email him at email@example.com.