History of Buff Allies

Buff Allies was first started in 1999 by Dayna Schertler, who was a staff member for the university’s counseling services. Members put a postage stamp sized sticker with a maroon buffalo with the word Allies above it on their door or window. It wasn’t very visible, but important for those to trying to find a safe space at West Texas A&M University. Texas A&M, the flagship of our university system, had an allies program and provided materials for Dayna.

Dayna left WTAMU in 2007, and the organization faltered under a lack of leadership. No one who had been part of Allies had been prepared to take over the organization. In spring 2009, at the request of the university diversity committee, which is comprised of faculty, staff, and student representatives, social work students picked up the training as part of a class project. Communication about training was limited and the purpose unclear, yet it was an important step in demonstrating the importance of a continued allies presence. Those who attended the training received good information, albeit from a heteronormative perspective. It was a short and fairly basic training that left several faculty seeking a more robust program. However, time and resources were limited.

Around this same time, the student gay-straight alliance was trying to get its footing. An earlier version of GSA had become the organization, Tolerance. In 2010, because of her research on LGBTQ support and the It Gets Better campaign, Dr. Kristina Drumheller, professor of communication, was asked to be the faculty advisor for the organization, which changed its name to Spectrum. The organization went through another change in 2017 becoming Spectrum GSA. The group also asked former Education professor Dr. Yvette Castillo to join as the second faculty advisor. The student group struggled to maintain membership. The bold and dynamic leadership of 2010-11 was not replaced as students graduated and moved away, leading to a defunct organization. 

In 2012, a group of students sought to revitalize Spectrum. They eventually found their way to Dr. Drumheller as the previous advisor for Spectrum who agreed to once again advise the organization. The group re-established the banking account and re-visited the bylaws to rejuvenate the organization.

One of the members, Alice MillerMacPhee, a graduate student in psychology, asked Dr. Drumheller about bringing in Safe Zone trainers. With the support of Dean Eddie Henderson in the College of Education and Social Sciences, WTAMU was able to cover the costs of the trainers and held the first Train-the-Trainer Safe Zone session. MillerMacPhee and Drumheller did not expect much and so were astonished to have 28 in the room that day, mostly faculty and staff, but a couple of students joined as well.

Since that time, regular 4-hour trainings have been offered on the campus and in the community under volunteer faculty and staff supervision. A committee was formed and a budget provided by the Office of Student Engagement and Leadership. Buff Allies is operated by volunteers, which makes leadership tenuous but hopeful that WTAMU can one day sustain an LGBTQIA center. Buff Allies trains faculty, staff, students, and community leaders and is proud to have 2 Safe Zone trained churches among its success stories. There is a regular presence at New Student Orientations to let students know Allies are here if needed. 

The continued presence of Buff Allies has also led to the strength of Spectrum GSA. Once floundering, this student organization now counts 35-50 in its revolving membership.

The once small maroon buffalo gradually became the logo today with a large rainbow next to the buffalo and the website as part of the logo. The stickers are now 2"x3" so much more visible as they are placed on doors and windows to let others know about ally presence. Banners for Buff Allies welcome those moving into residence halls every fall. Faculty, staff, students and community members help at a table set up at New Student Orientation so everyone knows Buff Allies is available if needed. Buff Allies also has a table at the annual pride festival sponsored by Panhandle Pride, Inc., each June.

In October 2013, Buff Allies hosted its first LGBTQ+ month speaker and has continued the tradition ever since. Additional speaking events are held in conjunction with the Gender Studies certificate program; a program that arose out of the success of Buff Allies and enrollment of an LGBTQ+ politics course.

Buff Allies not only hosts regular Safe Zone trainings, but also monthly Lunch 'n Learn events. Topics include religion, legal challenges, understanding language, current legislative challenges, transgender support, and many other topics! The Buff Allies committee encourages ideas from the community and is open to external presenters.

Dr. Drumheller led Buff Allies with a team of amazing volunteers until stepping down in spring 2022. The current leadership team includes Chip Chandler, senior communications specialist, and Echo Sibley, assistant professor of theatre. Jill Ludington, part-time instructor for theatre, served the leadership team during Summer 2022.


Dr. Kristina Drumheller
Ms. Anne Medlock
Dr. Ashley Pinkham

[Former Trainers - no longer at WTAMU]
Dr. Anand Commissiong
Dr. Jean Stuntz (retired)
Ms. Rebekah Grome
Mr. Zach Nethery
Ms. Alice MillerMacPhee
Dr. Nate Smith
Dr. Yvette Castillo