The 2012 Sapphire Fund/Independence Business Alliance Scholarship, now in its third year, was presented to Ryan Foster on Nov. 12.
Foster, 20, is a junior finance major at the university. He hails from Villa Park, Ill., and although he didn’t originally see Villanova as part of his future, Foster said he knew he wanted to attend college on the East Coast.
“One of the main reasons that I knew about Villanova is that my uncle went there as well. He brought me here when I was looking at schools,” Foster said. “I love the campus and the size of it, and I love the business school.”
Foster, who is openly gay, was involved in his high school’s National Honor Society, Key Club, Mock Trial and Foreign Language Club. He joined the school’s LGBT club in his senior year, when it got started.
Now in college, Foster is involved with Villanova’s Mock Trial Team and is vice president of the Financial Management Association.
While the university has been welcoming, Foster said he has seen a different atmosphere from the one in high school.
“It is a lot different at Villanova,” he said. “I am completely out with professors and students and I have had no issues with that, but LGBT issues are a little less talked about in school.”
Foster received information about the Sapphire Fund/IBA scholarship in an e-mail chain.
“I read over the scholarship information and it sounded like a great thing for me; it was a perfect match.”
The $1,000 scholarship is awarded to an LGBT-identified, Philadelphia-area student enrolled in a business-related discipline.
As part of the application process, Foster was required to get two recommendations and write essays, one of which he focused on what he considers a highlight of his LGBT activism at Villanova.
Last year, the Catholic-affiliated university cancelled a week-long workshop that featured gay performance artist Tim Miller, spurring Foster and many others to action.
“It was something that really bothered me. I emailed a faculty member and told her that I was concerned about it. The response that I got from her was very generic and it bothered me,” Foster said. “A lot of other students expressed concerns. We held a forum and we were able to get the university president and several of the deans to have an open conversation. Several-hundred students came out for the event.”
Foster reached out to The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which helped bring attention to the need for students to be given an explanation about the cancellation.
“That was something that I was really passionate about and it meant a lot, and it was good having the university talk about it openly. It was a step forward,” he said.
However, Foster added there isn’t a very visible LGBT presence on campus, which he said has been one of the biggest challenges he has found at Villanova.
“I feel like there aren’t a lot of gay students here, especially in business school, so just not having gay friends to talk to about issues on a daily basis has been a challenge,” he said.
But he said his ally friends have been very supportive.
Being close to Philadelphia also has had advantages, especially in making connections within the LGBT community.
“I’ve made a lot of good friends at the University of Pennsylvania, especially through the Wharton Alliance, and through them, I have made many friends in the city,” he said.
Foster said he hopes to go to law school after completing his undergraduate education, and ultimately is looking forward to working in the investment-banking field, specifically in the compliance and legal sectors.
Foster said that in the long run, he hopes to support others in becoming more open about their identities, and to find an employer that encourages the same.
“I hope to find an employer that is LGBT-friendly and active in LGBT issues. It has been important to me when talking with employers what LGBT initiatives and groups they have,” he said. “I really want to remain involved and I hope to recruit other LGBT students to do the same.”