Most Influential Students: Kayley Weinberg

Weinberg will graduate this semester. She plans on working for Sigma Sigma Sigma as a traveling consultant in the northeast region, but expects to eventually return to MU to get her teaching certificate in high school English.

A former Panhellenic Association president, a loud and proud social justice activist and an English major from a conservative St. Louis suburb walk into a bar.

They're all Kayley Weinberg.

This is the first semester Weinberg didn’t hold any leadership positions. The super-involved senior is also involved in Greek Allies, the Proud Tigers mentorship program, Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority and has served as a Summer Welcome leader.

“For me, it was about finding the few things that I’m really passionate about and really jumping into those,” Weinberg said. "And also finding ways that my different passions could interact. Greek Allies is a good example of my passion for social justice, and specifically LGBTQ issues, and my passion for the Greek community."

If you think those passions are a bit at odds, you aren’t alone. But that’s the mindset Weinberg’s involvement on campus has worked to break down, LGBTQ Resource Center coordinator Struby Struble said.

“(Kayley) has been a really great true, honest, open version of herself,” Struble said. "She was out as PHA president and as a Summer Welcome leader, and that representation of a successful, out queer person does so much for breaking down stereotypes of our community, validating and legitimizing the identities of LGBT students who aren’t necessarily only involved in the LGBT center. And it really shows the breadth of our community and helps be a representation to people that we’re all across this campus doing important work."

Weinberg said she has seen herself change in her four years at MU, especially since coming out two years ago.

"I’m very different,” she said. "I’m much more confident in my own skin than I was. I feel more Kayley. I have a better sense of who I am, who I want to continue to be and also who I want to surround myself with. That’s something that has changed a lot."

She said coming into school, the only thing she was sure of was that she wanted to be involved.

"Some people know exactly what they want to do right when they get here, exactly which communities they want to help,” Weinberg said. "For me, I didn’t really know. I just knew I wanted to make a difference and be involved directly in planning things and enacting thing."

Her advice to younger students wanting to make a difference is simple: “Jump right in.”

“If they’re interested in something, even if they’re nervous … go for it,” Weinberg said. “I would tell them to push themselves out of their comfort zone. My freshman year consisted of diving head-first, which left me pretty overwhelmed, but I think it was good because I got to do things I figured out I wasn’t passionate about and then do things I found a passion for.”

After graduating this semester, Weinberg will work for Sigma Sigma Sigma as a traveling consultant in the northeast region. She expects to return to MU, however, to get her teaching certificate in high school English.

“I will be really sad (to leave),” Weinberg said. "It hasn’t really hit me yet. I think when people keep saying, ‘three weeks until graduation,’ it’s like, ‘that can’t be me.’ I think it’ll be really weird, but I think knowing I’ll be coming back makes it a little less difficult to leave. I’m going to be really sad to leave the community I’ve built here. It’s kind of scary."

Weinberg’s favorite memories of her time here are the friends she’s made and the community she’s built.

“It really started to take form after I was a Summer Welcome leader,” she said. “That’s when I started to come out. That experience gave me a lot of confidence in myself and in my community. Being more involved in the social justice community has been good for me, and I grow every day because of the friends I’ve made in that community. And to see the bravery and the activism on our campus for so many different issues has been really, really special. Being able to speak up about things and having people by my side who will support me and speak up with me has been my favorite experience."

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