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headshot cropUniversity of Wisconsin Oshkosh alumnus John Erickson ’09, of West Hollywood, Calif., has promoted activism in LGBTQ and women’s rights throughout campus and West Hollywood.

Erickson will be presented with an Outstanding Young Alumni Award during Homecoming festivities in October by the UW Oshkosh Alumni Association.

At UW Oshkosh, Erickson enjoyed playing volleyball, helping the men’s team earn a national championship in 2007 and a national runner-up finish in 2009. He is remembered as the only openly gay male student-athlete at UWO at the time, earning All-American honors in 2009 and voted as First Team All-Conference in the Wisconsin Volleyball Conference and First Team All-Conference in the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association in 2007, 2008 and 2009. In 2009, Erickson earned Most Valuable Player at the Wisconsin Volleyball Conference Tournament.

Erickson is most proud not only of his championship win but also with the opportunity he had to mentor others who were struggling to be open with their sexual identity

“I am proud to have come from a school like UWO, where I was supported by the faculty, my coaches, my teammates, friends and peers, and was able to symbolize that acceptance and openness to others on a national level,” Erickson said.

Although he was busy in sports at UWO, Erickson also served as a representative to the Gender Equity Council and as a public relations intern for the Women’s Center. He was the first-ever male director of the Women’s Advocacy Council. He also wrote for the Advance-Titan newspaper and stayed active in the University Honors Program.

John Erickson, momcrop“I also single-handedly reinvigorated and led the UWO Lambda Mu chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honors Society, and served as president from 2006 to 2009,” Erickson said.

After graduation, Erickson moved to Claremont, Calif., to begin a master’s program in women’s studies in religion and applied women’s studies. He sharpened his skills by focusing on social justice, teaching, nonprofit work and activism.

In graduate school, he worked as a research and teaching assistant for the Applied Women’s Studies Program, a graduate student liaison to the Women’s Studies in Religion Program, a faith fellow at Equality Inland Empire and as an adjunct instructor in religion at Harvey Mudd College.

After graduation from Claremont Graduate University in spring 2011, Erickson worked at New York University for the Margaret Sanger Papers Project and then returned to earn his doctorate at Claremont. Erickson began policy research, development and implementation of programming through the City of West Hollywood in the City Council offices.

Eventually, Erickson was promoted to administrative services specialist for the city, where his increased responsibilities included planning, coordinating and implementing events and programs. He also maintained budgets and project reports as large as $100,000, and managed and produced city events that were created by the City Council.

Climbing up the ladder in West Hollywood, Erickson also worked as a city council deputy and a chief of staff for a council member, monitoring functions associated with legislative issues, conducting research, analyzing legislation and preparing staff reports and recommendations.

After passing his qualifying exams and defending his dissertation proposal, Erickson stayed engaged in his activist and social justice efforts.

Currently, Erickson works as the community events technician, developing and handling event programming and production for the West Hollywood City Council, Advisory Boards and Commission, and other city departments.

Besides his activist work for the city, Erickson also serves as a nonfiction reviewer for Lambda Literary, a leader in LGBT reviews, author interviews, opinions and news. He also is the co-chair of the Queer Studies in Religion section of the American Academy of Religions Western Region, which is dedicated to the exploration of queer studies in religion. To stay connected with his alma mater, Erickson serves as leader of the LGBTQA+ Alumni Chapter.

Erickson said the biggest lesson he learned at UWO was the importance of believing in your ability to change the world.

“I learned that UWO was both home as well as a constant positive source of inspiration that I would utilize throughout my life, when I would be scared to take on new or challenging situations,” Erickson said.

Because of the acceptance he felt throughout the campus community, Elizabeth Cannon, UWO’s LGBTQ Resource Center director, is Erikson’s UWO hero.

“I was able to flourish at UWO through my involvement with her continued investment and interest in not only seeing that I fulfilled my potential, but also her guidance through both the graduate school application process and ultimately admission and transition,” Erickson said. “Although I was fortunate enough to meet and be inspired by multiple people, Cannon is the individual who changed my life and I wouldn’t be the man, scholar or professional I am today without her.”

When he returns to campus in October, Erickson looks forward to meeting up  with Cannon and another good friend, Jennifer Whalen in the IT department. He said he will reflect on how the University has framed his passion for activism.

“Coming back to take part in the awards ceremony makes it even more worthwhile to continue the work I set out to do when I walked across that stage at graduation,” Erickson said.

For more information about the alumni awards celebration on Oct. 16 during Homecoming 2015, please contact the UW Oshkosh Alumni Relations Office at (920) 424-3449 or send an email to

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