Dr. Cheryl Nicholas, Associate Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at Penn State Berks, received Penn State University?s Commission on LGBT Equity´s 2015 Outstanding Service Award. The award was presented at the Lavender Graduation on Penn State's University Park campus on April 17, 2015, and recognized Nicholas´s service to the LGBT community as an active participant in improving the climate of diversity and inclusion for LGBT people at Penn State.
The nomination cited Nicholas? research, pedagogy, and service. Nicholas is currently working on a book-length project exploring how members of the lesbian/queer community(ies) of Malaysia use everyday talk to constitute/re-constitute a "reality" around their sexual/gender identity. Specifically, Nicholas examines how Malay (Muslim) lesbians speak of themselves and others perceived to be like them/not like them. She recognizes that space (public vs. private) has a strong bearing on how lesbians in Malaysia negotiate their racial, class-based and religious identities.
Previously, Nicholas had published three articles/book chapters on LGBTQ topics, ranging from how eye-gaze is used as a ?gaydar? trigger to mapping out disciplinary-interdisciplinary LGBTQ studies. She has presented a number of conference papers on LGBTQ topics and is currently serving on the editorial board of Sexuality & Communication Journal, a new online journal founded in 2012 under the auspices of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Caucus of Central States Communication Association.
Nicholas's pedagogic activities are significant. In 2014, she escorted 23 students on a class trip to New York City to participate in various educational activities associated with LGBTQ culture and history. During the trip, students visited Stonewall Inn; the Christopher Park neighborhood, which is the site of the 1969 riots; and the LGBT Community Center, where history-making organizations such as ACT UP, GLAAD and Queer Nation took root. The group also experienced theatrical and cultural performances including Broadway?s Hedwig & the Angry Inch, a rock-musical about a fictional East German transgender singer who deals with gender identity, interpersonal relationships and glam rock.
Nicholas also serves as an advisor for Penn State Berks? Rainbow Alliance and has helped them organize a variety of events such as Coming Out Day, NOISE, and Day of Silence, as well as fundraising and informational activities. She has also helped bring various speakers to campus, such as Erin Davies from FagBug and Dr. Sheena Howard, Founder of NerdWorks and 2014 Eisner Award Winner.
In addition, Dr. Nicholas has developed a special-topics class on LGBTQ identity: LGBTQ Identity, Culture and Communication.
According to the nomination, ?As evidenced by this impressive list of achievements, Dr. Nicholas works hard to bring awareness and understanding to our University, and to create a safe space for faculty, staff and especially students. I could not think of any other scholar, teacher and citizen of our College so committed and engaged in bringing extraordinary learning opportunities to our students.?