When Iyan Sandri ’08, ’15, ’22—a science fiction fan—stepped onto the University of Redlands campus as a first-year student in 2004, he compared himself to Spock in the first season of Star Trek: logical, determined, and dismissive of his emotions. As he grew through his experiences, though, he began to explore his vulnerabilities, just as Spock began to investigate his human traits later in the franchise.
The U of R turned out to be a great place for this development and introspection, says Iyan (who asked that the blog use his first name). After graduating from the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies, where he designed an emphasis in astrobiology and science fiction, he went on to pursue a career in information technology on campus, as well as graduate studies at the U of R School of Education. After earning a master’s degree, he is now enrolled in the doctoral program.
“I’m really interested in queer theory,” he says, “and the School of Education’s emphasis on educational justice allowed me to connect queer theory to academics.”
According to Iyan, queer theory is a field that emerged out of feminist and critical race theory in the late 1980s, and it encourages students to question established, normative ideas. Even though Iyan is only in the first year of the Ed.D. program, he is already planning to use queer theory as a framework for his dissertation.
Queer theory has also influenced Iyan’s creative pursuits and activism. While attending a reading at the Frugal Frigate, a children’s bookstore in downtown Redlands, he noticed the books introducing the LGBTQ+ community to kids focused on relationship narratives.
“It bothered me that queer people were only being explained through their relationships, not as individuals,” he says. “I realized there was an opportunity to introduce this community to kids in a different way.”
In 2018, Iyan published Your Uncle is A Fruit, a 24-page illustrated children’s book.
Around the same time he began to conceptualize the children’s book, Iyan began thinking about formulating a proclamation to recognize the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and declare June as Pride Month in Redlands. Having no prior experience developing proclamations, he decided to use another cause he cares about to test the waters.
“I’m a type 1 diabetic, so I introduced a proclamation to declare the month of November as Diabetes Awareness Month,” says Iyan. “After that was accepted in 2018 and June started getting closer, I wrote a letter to the mayor and contacted city staff about a potential Pride proclamation.”
After conducting research on other city’s Pride proclamations and writing a draft for the City of Redlands, Iyan worked with Mayor Paul Foster and his staff to reserve a date for its introduction. On May 7, Iyan, along with a large group of LGBTQ+ people and their allies, attended a City Council meeting in which the proclamation was ratified, officially recognizing June as Pride Month in Redlands. Current Mayor Pro Tempore Denise Davis, who is the City of Redlands’s first openly LGBTQ+ council member, delivered the proclamation.
“I was nervous because the proclamation could have been pulled due to public opinion,” says Iyan. “But the energy in the room was great. An aid for Assemblyman James Ramos ’08 delivered a second proclamation that recognized Pride Month in Redlands at the State level.”
Iyan admits he has come a long way from his first days on the University of Redlands campus. Reflecting upon more than a decade of experiences on campus, Iyan says he appreciates the community he found at the U of R.
“I really value the intellectual curiosity at the University of Redlands,” he says. “People are always doing something interesting.”