Students Receive Nord Award for LGBTQ Research

Maegan Nelson

Illustration by Eduardo Vazquez
Illustration by Eduardo Vazquez

As students are wrapping up the end of the year, some things are winding down, but for the annual David Nord Award recipients, things are starting to really pick up.

Junior Maikor Pereira Azuaje and senior Diana Boesch were selected to receive this award for work with faculty advisers on projects addressing critical issues currently facing the queer community.

The award was established in honor of alumnus David Nord ’83, who created its endowment three years before he died in 1999.

For her project, Boesch has been conducting thesis research about queer law.

“I knew I was going to write my thesis of something related to LGBTQ studies because it’s been my passion for the past couple of years to write my thesis on queer politics. I was very lucky and got the David Nord Award, and what my thesis is about is the Lawrence v. Texas case [in] 2003 which decriminalized sodomy.”

This important case at the time effectively criminalized gay and lesbian people’s identity.

“Their identity was really wrapped up in their sexuality; society tended to perceive them as criminals themselves, not just the act as criminal. As a result, they were denied other societal benefits such as child custody [and] marital rights,” said Boesch.

She focused on the effects of the work of Lambda Legal, the nation’s oldest and largest legal organization working for the civil rights of lesbians, gay men and individuals with HIV/AIDS. She wanted to look at the development of a gay legal identity.

Boesch’s advisor, Assistant Professor of Politics Melisa Casumbal, has been working closely with Boesch on her thesis.

“I am so proud of her,” said Casumbal. “My hope is that she is able to continue doing whatever work she wants to do, whether in law or in anything else.”

Boesch presented her research in a lecture on Monday, April 29 at 5 p.m. in Kimball Theatre.

Pereira Azuaje has been working on a more creative approach to understanding queer issues.

For his project, he choreographed an original dance performance called “I Love You, Man: Friendship and Brotherhood Across Sexual Orientations.” His production will be performed on Saturday, May 4 at 2 p.m. in Cordiner Hall.

“My way of approaching my topic was through dance, because I think through movement you can express more, and the topic is friendship and brotherhood across sexual orientations,” said Pereira Azujae.

Personal experiences led him to this project idea.

“I was afraid to come out to my all-male section. But there was this one guy who was very affectionate and when we were going to room together the following year, I came out to him. I was very nervous, but he was very accepting and he didn’t change the way that he related to me,” said Pereira Azuaje.

Pereira Azuaje will be focusing on how gay and straight men interact and how gay men often act more “straight” to be accepted.

Visiting Dance Instructor Peter de Grasse has been very impressed with Pereira Azuaje’s choreography.

“Most of my work with Maikor in the studio actually happened first semester. He was in the dance production class; my experience of him is that he is gifted as a choreographer and the way that he works [is] interesting for someone of his experience, because he is working semantically and with his imagination,” he said.

He describes Pereira Azuaje’s methods as slightly unconventional.

“One of the things that he told me that he is working on right now is that he is working from his dreams, dreaming of movement and then taking notes or trying to remember his dreams … that is a really unusual way of working and it is so imaginative that I think it has given him some work that wouldn’t be achieved in an orthodox manner,” said de Grasse.

Sophomore Evan Griffis, one of this year’s two LGBTQ interns, helped to organize the selection process and is pleased with its results.

“Every year, it’s really cool seeing who is going to win. The hardest part is that there are always so many good applicants with great ideas, but I’m really excited about this year’s winners,” he said.