Creating Opportunity for LGBTQ+ Students to Shine

Dan Decena and Morgan Sammons know that education has the power to help members of the LGBTQ community overcome complex social and economic barriers. The couple also understands the struggles of immigrant and minority students, as Dan was born and raised in Manila, Philippines.

Morgan is a retired Captain in the U.S. Navy and leads the National Register of Health Service Psychologists in Washington, D.C. His long history of leadership and advocacy in the psychology profession includes serving as the Specialty Leader for Navy Clinical Psychology and the Navy Surgeon General’s special assistant for psychological health and traumatic brain injury. Dan worked as a portfolio administrator and investment banker in New York for 15 years before moving to Washington, D.C., where he served as a senior advisor at the Bureau of Fiscal Service for the U.S. Department of the Treasury for 25 years. Together, they have created scholarships across the country that provide opportunities and access to education for often-ignored segments of the population.

Morgan grew up in Ashland, and he and Dan were frequent visitors. It made choosing a place to retire easy, as Ashland felt like returning home. Also, it gave Morgan a chance to reconnect with SOU. “I am an Ashlander and have a long association with SOU,” he said. “I completed my senior year (in high school) by attending classes at SOU. It’s always been an important part of the community.”

The two connected with SOU with a strong desire to support students who may have a challenging time paying for education or feeling supported as they pursue their goals. “We think it is important for us to support LGBTQ students and Asian and Pacific Islander and First Nations students,” said Morgan.

“This current political environment isn’t easy for foreign students, immigrants or minorities right now, but I want students to know that people care about them, and I want to tell them to keep on pushing,” added Dan.

Dan says he knows what it is like for students coming from another country. “I came to California, UCLA to be exact, for graduate school in my early twenties,” he said. “I have a lot of empathy for foreign students. We would love to meet the students who receive the scholarships and encourage them in their future endeavors,” he said.

Reflecting on his and Dan’s 32-year partnership and marriage, Morgan notes there have been some positive changes for the LGBTQ community, but struggles continue and education is a path to success. “We both realize that coming to school as an immigrant or sexual minority creates a distinct set of challenges, but we want to demonstrate that you can meet those challenges wherever your future takes you and not let them define or limit you,” said Morgan.

For Dan, supporting university students has a far-reaching impact “Everyone deserves an opportunity to learn. Everyone deserves a chance to shine.”