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Navigating the Waters of Diversity: Meet John Hudson

John Hudson (Photo by Thomas B. Shea)

As a young boy from the small coastal town of Petoskey, Michigan, John Hudson dreamed of becoming a ship captain, piloting the waters of the Great Lakes.

When Hudson joined UHD in 2007 as an English professor, he noticed that the diverse cultures and groups on campus lacked representation.

Today, Hudson helms UHD’s Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

The Center provides a variety of services to support and promote social justice within the University community.

“For students who are minorities or perceive themselves to be minorities of any kind, sometimes the absence of seeing themselves reflected on a campus speaks loudly,” said Hudson. “UHD needed a center on campus that addresses the needs of all genders, races and cultures.”

The diversity of the campus was a major draw for Hudson joining the faculty.

“A diverse student body makes learning more interesting and exciting and adds value to students’ educational experiences by fostering creativity,” he said. “I remember teaching the same book every semester, but depending on the gender, race or culture of the students in my class, I would get a new and fresh perspective.”

As the Center’s director, he regularly encourages and offers a platform for Gators to express cultural concerns or to present positive aspects about their race, culture, heritage, gender or sexual orientation.

A vocal advocate for diversity and change, Hudson has published articles and spoken publicly on confronting and ending homophobia and heterosexism.

In 2010, he played a key role in establishing the Center’s Safe Zone Program, which empowers and offers support to the LGBTQ campus community.

“Life is filled with people who aren’t going to agree with your life and your choices,” Hudson noted. “The Center’s job is to ensure that students have a safe space to express their concerns and fears.”

As a gay man living in the 1980s, Hudson knew what it was like to “live with a target on your back.”

“The older gay community hoped that we were the last to bleed for our freedom, but the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting made us realize that it’s not over,” he said. “The younger LGBTQ community is now facing the same fears, and I try to use my personal experience to steer them through it.”

When advising students, Hudson draws from his firsthand experience with discrimination, social marginalization, and bullying. As a teenager, he learned to channel his anger and aggression by using sports as an outlet.

Powerlifting and wrestling were pastimes-turned-obsessions that helped him ward-off school bullies. He now imparts those skills as the founder and head coach of the six-time National Champion UHD Powerlifting Team.

“You never know what burdens people are carrying. More often than not, people just need a compassionate ear or a strong shoulder,” said Hudson. “With everything happening in the world today, I’m here to help Gators navigate through life’s sometimes turbulent waters.”