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Iowa’s first openly transgender TV reporter speaks during Welcome Weekend

Nora Reichardt graduated from Drake University in 2021 before becoming a TV news reporter for WOI Channel 5 in Des Moines. Photo courtesy of Nora Reichardt.

Drake University’s Office of Equity and Inclusion recently welcomed Nora Reichardt, Iowa’s first openly transgender TV reporter, to speak on their panel during Welcome Weekend. Since the panel, there have been accounts of first-years having negative reactions to Reichardt’s presence on campus.

There have been rumors among first-years and PMACs of unexpected negative feedback from the audience at Reichardt’s speech during the diversity session.

When asked, members of the Peer Advisory Board — the group that oversees PMACs — were unable to give a statement about the interactions of first-years during the panel and, more specifically, Reichardt’s speech. 

According to one first-year student, Scott Jensen, there was an obvious need for education on the topic of diversity before the session. 

“Someone in my [First Year Seminar] asked pretty ignorantly what LGBTQ even stands for,” he said. 

Another first-year student in attendance described their perspective on their peers’ reactions to Reichardt.

“There was definitely some shock [among the audience] when she showed her photos [before transitioning],” said Maggie Gorham, a first-year student who attended the event. But the shock wasn’t necessarily disrespectful, according to Gorham.

Contradictory to these observations, Reichardt said, “the reception that I was exposed to seemed fairly positive.” 

After she spoke on the panel, Reichardt had students — particularly students identifying with the trans and queer community — seek her out to introduce themselves and talk or relate to her in some way. There were many first-year students who left the DEI panel on a positive note, with no observable negative behavior.

“She was very well-spoken, and I thought she had good information,” said Jake Wolff, a first-year student in attendance.

At the panel, Reichardt shared her life story and how she has been affected since coming out. As a first-year student at Drake in 2017, she was newly surrounded by a myriad of people with experiences she hadn’t been exposed to before college. 

Reichardt began her professional career as a news reporter for WOI Channel 5 in 2021. She made the decision to transition and come out on the air in October of last year, which was a big step, but one she does not regret. Reichardt says she is the happiest she’s ever been because of it, and she is glad to have the platform to speak to others about her experience.

Alongside the spectrum of responses to her speech, Reichardt acknowledged that students who gave the impression of tiredness or boredom were probably burnt out by Welcome Weekend in general.

“Welcome Weekend is a busy time…you all are running around for three, four days…and I understand that there’s some amount of burnout there and sometimes folks just want to be left alone,” Reichardt said.

Reichardt also recognizes that her speech may not have left an impression on or been relatable to everyone. However, she is not personally offended by this and hopes that each student at Drake has a chance to find others with experiences that they can relate to.

Reichardt gives Drake credit for its progressiveness in the area of diversity and inclusion.

“Stuff like the Welcome Weekend talk is a way that they’re trying to be more forward and accommodating for those sorts of experiences that a lot of the student body might not have had before,” Reichardt said.

Though there were unexpected reactions to Reichardt’s speech, it had a generally positive impact. According to the “History and Characteristics of Drake University” catalog, Drake University was founded on a “broad, liberal, and modern basis,” and despite the poor responses of some, Reichardt believes that the institution is continuing to move in the right direction.

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