Major: Public Relations/Texas Media and Analytics Sequence Completion
Programs and activities: Student Agency Member, Queer People of Color and Allies; Public Relations Intern, Edelman; Public Relations Intern, Praytell; Campus Ambassador Leader, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation; Social Media Strategist, Simona and Lynn Student Government Campaign; Social Media Staff Member, Orange Magazine and Spark Magazine.
Honors and recognition: Named by the American Advertising Federation as one of 50 Most Promising Multicultural Students for 2020
Since arriving to UT Austin by way of Arlington, Christian Kenoly has been championing LGBTQ+ rights and advocacy with several organizations including the Multicultural Engagement Center’s Queer & Trans People of Color and Allies (QTPOCA) student agency. Now Kenoly is about to embark on am exciting, fast-paced career in public relations with the goal of harnessing the power of new media to expand diversity and inclusion efforts in corporate and nonprofit sectors.
What made you decide to study public relations?
Honestly, I first wanted to do PR when I watched [the TV show] “Scandal.” I wanted to be Olivia Pope so bad! She was able to handle crises and fix public issues so quickly, and (most of the time) she stuck to her moral compass when doing her work. I wanted a career that would allow me to integrate my unique viewpoint to diversify the rooms that generate public interest/opinion.
Have you traveled anywhere exciting during your undergraduate years?
I haven’t done a study abroad program, but I have traveled to New York City for internship programs and conferences. NYC is the hub for advertising and public relations, so everything is super fast paced.
During your time on campus, what were some of your biggest challenges that you overcame?
My biggest challenge was learning to allow and validate my own experiences at this institution. Being QTPOC (a queer trans person of color) can be very isolating and intimidating, especially in a cultural environment that has such gaps in diversity and inclusion. But through educating myself and finding a home in safe spaces, like the Multicultural Engagement Center, I quickly found a community that focused on building one another up and navigating such a complex, traditional environment.
How did the Multicultural Engagement Center (MEC) enrich your experience here at UT?
Whenever I walk into the MEC, I am greeted with such warmth. Getting to know and love so many people from that space has truly been a gift. I cannot possibly imagine what my college experience would be like without it. When I was frustrated with right-wing extremists populating the campus, I went to the MEC. When I would get misgendered in the classroom and needed someone to listen to me, I went to the MEC. When I just wanted to gossip about pop culture, I went to the MEC. The MEC gave me a space I’d thought I never had.
Did you take away any valuable lessons about advocacy from your time in QTPOCA?
QTPOCA taught me about how fun it is to be queer. So much of LGBTQ+ discourse/activism can be daunting, heavily academic and tiresome. But QTPOCA gives a community of folx the ability to write their own queer narratives about their identities. We were able to talk and dance and share and love and cry together, without repercussions. In such a high-tension academic setting, QTPOCA was able to still have fun.
Where do you see yourself after graduation?
Hopefully in a big city somewhere working in multicultural marketing or working for a nonprofit. I also see myself being someone who actively helps people entering their careers.
What advice would you give to an incoming Longhorn who is a member of the LGTBQA+ community?
I would definitely say to go to at least one event hosted by the MEC, the Gender and Sexuality Center and QTPOCA. I would also say that it is okay to feel small or even afraid at a place like UT. It is not only completely valid to hold space for yourself, but it is the only way you can survive. Practicing introspection and self-preservation, while immersing yourself in a community of people who take care of one another, is the best way to experience UT.