Tyler McDougald, a junior English and history double major at Clemson University, recently was honored with a Point Foundation Scholarship, awarded to students who are leaders in the LGBTQ community. McDougald is the first student in South Carolina to receive the prestigious scholarship in the 19-year history of the foundation.

Tyler McDougald recently received a prestigious Point Foundation Scholarship.

Tyler McDougald is the first student in South Carolina to earn a prestigious Point Foundation Scholarship in the 19-year history of the nonprofit organization. Image Credit: Kat Eaves

“I’m absolutely elated and really honored,” he said. “Being the first Point Scholar in South Carolina is huge, and I think it will open a lot of doors for me and other LGBTQ people at Clemson.”

McDougald, 22, born and raised in Greenville, is the founder and president of the Clemson Rainbow Fellowship, an LGBTQ+ program.

“The fellowship’s mission is to build community for LGBTQ people at Clemson, with the understanding that queer people often face difficult transitions to life as university students,” McDougald said.

McDougald credits his Clemson professors for their unstinting support. Both of his majors – English and History – are housed within the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities.

“Tyler McDougald is an exceptional reader of literature, a committed leader on campus, and an indefatigable advocate for LGBTQ students at Clemson,” said Walt Hunter, associate professor and associate chair of the English department. “In his dynamic leadership, his innovation of new structures and programming on campus, and his vital literary scholarship, Tyler enacts E.M. Forster’s famous maxim: ‘Only Connect.’”

Point Foundation Scholarships have an average value of $10,000 per year, with students able to renew for up to four years. McDougald was one of only 19 students nationwide awarded the scholarship this year from a pool of 2,300 applicants.

The foundation is the nation’s largest scholarship-granting organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students in higher education. The Point Foundation’s support extends far beyond financial assistance. Each scholarship recipient is paired with a mentor and participates in leadership development programs and events.

Leading the way

McDougald said LGBTQ students offer strong support for each other at Clemson. McDougald has advocated for space to create an LGBTQ living and learning community within a residence hall.

“We want an affirming and embracing space for LGBTQ students who live on campus,” McDougald said.

He has pushed for more LGBTQ-focused classes so these topics enter the mainstream of Clemson’s curriculum. He also worked closely with the Clemson Division of Inclusion and Equity.

McDougald, a student in the Clemson University Honors College, is the chair of the Inclusion and Equity Committee in the Clemson Undergraduate Student Government.

“Our committee is tasked with leading the way on all things inclusion and equity, advocating for what students need in regard to gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, disability, international status and religious affiliation,” McDougald said.

Public service focus

“I’ve always been impressed by Tyler’s broad intellectual interests and deep passion for learning,” said Steven Marks, professor of history. “But what I really admire is his willingness to advocate openly for what he believes while also being able to empathize with the point of view of those who disagree with him. He is just a remarkable student.”

Early in his Clemson experience, McDougald hosted an event to supply holiday food for LGBTQ students.

Currently, the Rainbow Fellowship is holding Give Back 2020, a virtual fundraiser for several LGBTQ support groups.

After graduation, McDougald hopes to attend law school, focusing on public service and LGBTQ issues. He’s currently working on his English honors thesis on queer themes in horror literature.

McDougald’s Point scholarship is named after the late Alfred A. Cave, a history professor and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Toledo in Ohio.

“I’m very grateful to the family of Alfred A. Cave,” McDougald said.

Like most students, McDougald has been attending school virtually for the past few months, working from his apartment in Greenville. It’s a challenge, McDougald said, but it seems to have pleased his dog Elvira, a dachshund mix.

“She loves it that I’m home 24/7 now,” McDougald said.

For more information about the Clemson Rainbow Fellowship, visit the group’s website.