Q&A with Tom Henkenius

What inspired you to apply to USC?

My grandparents were born and raised just blocks away from USC. One of their first dates – they told me – was to the Figure 8, a skating rink on the corner of Figueroa and 8th in downtown. At an early age, their stories implanted a deep love for Los Angeles and more specifically USC (somewhere there’s a photo of 8-year-old me wearing a USC tank top). So, it was only natural that I would apply to the university in the heart of that city.

Was there a professor (or professors) who made a significant impact on you?

I came to USC after 12 year of Catholic, parochial education so my worldly view was somewhat limited. But then I took a class from Alison Dundes Renteln on the cultural defense and my point of view began to broaden. I took two more classes taught by her before she told me to go learn from another professor. And in all honesty, there were countless other professors who had a similar impact.

What extracurricular groups and/or service projects did you participate in as a USC undergrad?

My primary focus during my undergrad at USC was Trojan Vision – the campus TV station. The station went on the air during my first semester at USC and they couldn’t get rid of me until after I graduated. We were actually making TV. I was learning how to make in the classroom at USC Annenberg but I was creating, producing and hosting shows at Trojan Vision. It was the best!

How has USC evolved regarding LGBTQ issues since you graduated?

I didn’t come out until the year after I graduated. I don’t remember much of an LGBTQ presence on campus at all. I had friends who were out but that was about it. Today when I walk down Trousdale and see the rainbow banners during Pride Month, I can’t help but envy the campus today’s students have inherited. That said, I’m also well aware that not everyone is as welcomed off campus. We have LGBTQ students who’s parents and family have abandoned them so I hope my work with Lambda makes their road easier.

If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be?

It’s all right!

What was your first job after college?

I took a job anchoring local news in Greenville, Mississippi.

What drew you to working in your field?

Today I work in the start-up space and teach digital marketing at FIDM in Downtown LA. My career has been about telling stories: first as a journalist, then as a college instructor and now in the digital media space.

What inspired you to get involved with USC Lambda?

It was an easy decision to get involved with the USC Alumni Association because I support its mission: connecting Trojans lifelong and worldwide; being their voice on campus and fundraising for scholarships. Lambda is at a point where we need to build on all three of those. I want to connect Lambda members with each other and to the greater USC community, I want to be able to represent our point of view across the campus and I want to raise scholarships for members of our community who need them.

What do you hope to accomplish during your tenure as USC Lambda Board of Directors president?

To start a $1-million campaign that could become a funding source for homeless LGBTQ youth who deserve the same opportunities I’ve been afforded.