Alumni Spotlight: MPA Graduates Inspire Diversity Awareness at the City Level

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May 15, 2020
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Photo of Gender Neutrality Restroom Sign in City of Olympia Buildings

Gender Inclusive Restroom Policy Proposal Accepted: Cole Ketcherside, Cory Miller and Megan Duncan (MPA'16)

Three former MPA students, Cole Ketcherside, Megan Duncan, and Cory Miller, delivered an exceptional capstone project that is gaining local government support. In spring 2016, these three students set out to create a social impact in just ten weeks. Cole and his partners navigated the streets of downtown Olympia, gathering data and research from 251 local businesses. In an interview with current MPA Student Ambassador Nettie Gould, “We pounded the pavement. We went door to door. We walked in and approached the staff,” said Cole. The conclusions made by the group left a domino effect upon our local city council to think about; “The focus on bathrooms was honestly a vehicle to a much larger conversation. From the get-go, we wanted it to be more than just a classroom assignment."

In an interview with the MPA Program Assistant, Jim Cooper, City Councilmember said, "The City loves it when we get well thought out and researched ideas from the public, especially when it helps us build a culture of equality."

Within a couple of months after considering Ketcherside, Miller and Duncan's Restroom Policy Proposal the City of Olympia placed signs that made all single stall bathrooms in City Buildings (City Hall, The Olympia Center, Fire Stations, Police Stations, Olympia Public Works, etc.) gender neutral. The City Council then referred the student's additional recommendation to make multi-use bathrooms gender inclusive to the General Government Committee for further exploration. By winter of 2019, the City of Olympia placed gender inclusive signs (see photo) on all multi-use restrooms in City Buildings. In the future they will be looking at restroom policy regarding gender neutrality in new private buildings within Olympia City limits.

The level of impact begins with an idea, an intrinsic group, and a public policy skillset to execute a proposal that is long-lived. Today this proposal is in finishing stages to become a city-wide implementation towards adjusting bathroom accessibility accommodations that is inclusive towards the LGBTQ demographic.

“Don’t underestimate the power of one community, making a small change,” says Cole. It is proposals like this that create a ripple effect for other researchers in other cities to follow suit.  ​