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Secular Student Alliance Names New Executive Director

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Christian Norton, (703) 314-8280
christian.norton@secularstudents.org

Columbus, Ohio— The Secular Student Alliance (SSA) is pleased to announce that we have named Kevin Bolling as our new Executive Director. Kevin brings with him 20 years of nonprofit leadership experience. His career has included over 10 years of student association management and on-campus program development from Los Angeles to Boston. For 10 years, Kevin served as the Executive Director of the California Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Foundation, a charitable trust serving the healthcare needs of the industries’ largely immigrant workforce. Most recently, Kevin served as the Director of Philanthropy at the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, a major LGBTQ arts advocacy organization, whose youth outreach work has moved thousands of hearts and minds across the US towards embracing LGBTQ equality.

Kevin’s leadership will build upon the work of the SSA’s co-founder and former Executive Director, August Brunsman, in expanding the spirit of activism and engagement within our community to embrace a leadership role in our nation’s fight for social justice. Said Larry Decker, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America:

"For 17 years, the SSA has helped foster a community for nonreligious students on college campuses across the country and empowered them to make a positive impact in their communities. The energy, enthusiasm, and outlook that Kevin brings to the SSA has us excited to see how he continues the organization’s indispensable work. The secular students of today are the activists, leaders, and lawmakers of tomorrow. With Kevin at the helm of the SSA, the future of the secular movement looks brighter than ever."

In his inaugural speech as the new Executive Director, Kevin spoke directly to students at the Secular Student Alliance’s annual conference:

You are the first generation in our country’s history with the values and commitment to:
  • Treat women as equal
  • Realize that a room full of men are not the best ones to be making decisions about women’s healthcare
  • Acknowledge and take action against institutionalized racism
  • Understand that love is love is love
  • Embrace that gender identity and expression are not dualistic paradigms, but beautiful spectrums
  • Practice whatever religion you want—or none at all
  • Know that we have one world—that we’d better take care of—and one life, that we’d better make the most of.

Under Kevin’s leadership, the expression of secular values, and not just the representation of secular identity, will be the SSA’s primary focus. It is these values that guide the SSA’s work and commitment to fighting for equity and justice. Since its founding, the SSA has witnessed a steady swell in the number of college students with no religious affiliation—a number that has tripled in the last 30 years, from 10 percent in 1986 to 31 percent just last year. We have also witnessed those values motivating students to align with intersectional movements and effect positive change on their campuses, in their communities—and in our country as a whole.

“Kevin has dedicated his life to non-profit advocacy in the social justice space,” said Evan Clark, Chair of the Board of the SSA. “We're proud to have him on our team as we build a new generation of secular leaders.”

Kayley Whalen, SSA Board Member and Digital Strategies and Social Media Manager at National LGBTQ Task Force, said: “As a board member, I'm confident Kevin has the skills to strengthen the SSA's progressive voice on not just secular issues, but all social justice issues. I'm excited to see another member of the LGBTQ community in a leadership role in the secular movement, as our movements for justice are deeply intertwined and have much we can learn from each other.”

Change is necessary now more than ever, a driving factor in Kevin’s ambitious vision for the Secular Student Alliance. The organization aims to expand its national staff to more fully live out our dedication to social justice and equality. We also plan to deepen collaboration with organizations in both the secular movement and the broader progressive movement. At the heart of this work are our relationships with our students, which Kevin aims to amplify by connecting directly with faculty advisors and student affairs personnel to facilitate increased support for our students’ work.

Kevin’s commitment to the Secular Student Alliance will begin with a nationwide listening tour, a series of interviews with organizations, stakeholders, and social justice activists this summer, followed by a campus tour in the fall, during which he will connect directly with student organizations across the country.

Kevin has made it a priority to connect with media outlets during his initial months with the SSA. Interested journalists should contact Christian Norton christian.norton@secularstudents.org to set up an appointment.

Farewell

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Right now I’m at SSA Con for the last time as an employee of the Secular Student Alliance. On Monday, the Secular Student Alliance will publicly announce its new Executive Director, and soon after that my time at the SSA will officially come to a close.

I want to share my SSA Con farewell remarks with you, and thank you one last time for growing this amazing organization together with me.

Go forth and make more awesome,

August Brunsman
Executive Director Emeritus
Secular Student Alliance

Send a Thank You Note

Tomorrow: SSA Con 2017

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Tomorrow is the start of SSA Con 2017, and it’s going to be awesome!

We wanted to take a moment to introduce you to some of our speakers and panelists.

First, let me introduce you to Sean Omar Rivera, an activist extraordinaire. Not only is he the president of the Secular Student Alliance - he’s also a board member of the Freethinkers Association of Central Texas, and an activist with Black Lives Matter and Planned Parenthood. In his role as SSA president, he has focused on amplifying the organization’s visibility on a campus with a history of aggressive street preaching aimed at religious minorities and the LGBT community. At the Con he’s on our Racial Justice panel, which is sure to be a conference highlight!

Next is Kayla Bowen, an SSA activist and board member. Kayla will be a speaker on our Reproductive Justice panel and on the Social Media panel. She works as a human factors undergraduate research fellow and founded MSU’s SSA as a first semester freshman. We asked her about the issues her secular values motivate her to tackle: “We’re very much concerned with feminism, and the problems that reproductive justice and women’s rights are facing right now.”








Rev. J. Cody Nielsen is helping build Convergence, a new organization and offshoot of NASPA - Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. Convergence’s mission is to help better support a campus climate that supports all religious, secular, and spiritual identities. For decades, whether explicitly or de facto, most campuses in the United States and Canada have allowed Christian privilege to dominate the landscape. At SSA Con, Cody is presenting “Under the Religious Umbrella?: Legal Changes and New Opportunities for Support in Higher Education.”

Finally, there is Monica Massamba, who’s leading the Planned Parenthood session. Monica is helping PP expand their Generation Action program to Historically Black Colleges and Universities. We asked Monica why it's so important that secular values and the right to choose are represented at HBCU’s: "It's important that we build leadership in these communities and that they are sitting at these decision-making tables...."

This is just a small sample of what’s in store!

So if you’re attending the Con, we look forward to seeing you tomorrow! If you’ve not registered, well… online registration has closed, but if you decide to just show up anyways, you can always buy a ticket at the door!

Love Trumps Hate: Secular Student Convening Mobilizes Students for Social Activism

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Columbus, Ohio – The Secular Student Alliance (SSA) will host its 2017 annual conference from July 7-9, at Ohio State University on the theme Love Trumps Hate. The largest secular student conference in the nation, each year the conference brings together hundreds of students and community leaders to learn leadership development, grassroots organizing skills, and secular activism. This year’s conference will be no different—just better.

SSA organizers envision the convening as a training ground for secular activism, offering practical tools—grassroots organizing and leadership skills--for students to organize their peers around issues of intersectional activism.

The number of college students with no religious affiliation has tripled in the last 30 years, from 10 percent in 1986 to 31 percent just last year. And against the backdrop of today’s tumultuous social and political climate, SSA’s student activists have already been leading social justice movements on their campuses and in their communities across the country. They are more motivated than ever to create positive change, and SSA Con is a pivotal step.

This year’s speakers include:

  • Annie Pearl Avery, a legend of the Civil Rights Movement and self-identified secularist. Miss Avery was one of the first to be arrested in the 1965 attempt to march from Selma to Montgomery, the day now notoriously known as “Bloody Sunday.”
  • David Smalley, founder and CEO of Secular Media Group, the parent company for Dogma Debate Radio, Secular News Network, and Secular Media Network. David is also an author and national speaker on secularism and atheism.
  • Christopher Cameron, Associate Professor of History at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, president of the African American Intellectual History Society, and author whose work includes early religious history and the history of slavery and abolition.
  • Becka Alper, research associate at PEW Research Center and author. Becka contributes to the Center’s domestic religion polls.

And featured panels include:

Political Advocacy: With a focus on church/state separation, LGBTQ rights, women's healthcare, and more, we focus on it’s important for secular activists to make their political voices heard, from the perspective of student and professional activists, including:

  • Matt Enloe, SSA at University of Chicago
  • Lucien Greaves, The Satanic Temple
  • Erin Hagen, Americans United for Separation of Church and State
  • Jim Helton, Tri-State Freethinkers

Racial Justice: Black Lives Matter! How can we, as secular activists, work to advance these intersectional causes? This panel will reinforce the importance of tackling racial justice causes alongside secular causes, and explore how they are related from experienced student and professional activists. This panel will be moderated by Mandisa Thomas, President of Black Nonbelievers.

Panelists Include:

  • Diane Burkholder, One-Struggle Kansas City & LGBTQ Humanist Alliance
  • Sean Rivera, SSA at University of Texas, San Antonio
  • Sam Farooqui, alum of SSA at Florida State University
  • Annie Pearl Avery

Reproductive Justice: Why is it important for secular activists to be involved in fighting for reproductive rights, and combat the toxic influence of the Religious Right? We’ll hear from student activists as well as professional activists on why this is so important, how to be involved, and how we can fight for these rights!

  • Erin Carhart, Planned Parenthood
  • Jennie Frischtick, SSA alumni
  • Kayla Bowen, Morehead St SSA

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