EdM '16, Higher Education
Michael Venturiello (EdM ’16, Higher Education) is currently making a positive impact in his own community in New York City. When Venturiello is not navigating students through campus as a program administrator in the Center for Student Life at New York University (NYU), he is giving free walking tours of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) history around New York City.
Venturiello founded Christopher Street Tours, a volunteer-based tour company that provides free walking tours of LGBTQ history around New York City, in June 2018. He first thought of giving LGBQT tours after a friend at NYU asked him to give a tour to students who were participating in an LGBTQ day. Christopher Street Tours started as a small idea but flourished into a full-grown company providing LGBQT Walking Tours, LGBTQ Bar Tours and LGBTQ workshops on advocacy and social justice.
“My initial influence for this company was inspired by a book I am currently writing, a historical fiction piece on the Stonewall Riots,” Venturiello said. “I was doing a lot of research on LGBTQ history to make the novel as authentic as possible, then I moved to New York City about two years ago, which made the history and research I was doing come to life.”
Venturiello realized nobody around him was discussing how monumental the LGBTQ history was in New York City, which influenced him to obtain his tour guide license and create Christopher Street Tours. Part of the mission for Christopher Street Tours is to share LGBTQ history across all levels of community, including local, national and global. “We have led our folks from all over New York City and in major cities across the country and around the globe,” Venturiello said. “I like to think that we have a personal impact when someone takes a tour with us, and they feel inspired or changed by the stories we tell on our tours, as a potential call to action.”
Venturiello’s work with Christopher Street Tours has received positive attention, which lead him to being featured as one of the Top LGBTQ+ Influencers & Thought Leaders Transforming the Workplace Through Innovation and Impact. He was also included in an issue of Metrosource, an LGBTQ lifestyle magazine, with an article titled, Locals and Tourist Alike Learn the Gayborhood through Christopher Street Tours.
Venturiello credits his graduate program for his success since graduating. He said the higher education program in the Graduate School of Education encouraged him to critically think about different worldviews and perspectives. “I was able to learn more about my queer identity and the history of the queer community at UB,” Venturiello said. “I also learned more about advocacy, activism and the importance of representation, which are all aspects I include on my tour.”
The amazing friendships and connections are what Venturiello loves most about UB. His fellowship position in the UB Intercultural and Diversity Center helped him meet friends through his cohort and do research with Margaret Sallee, associate professor from the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy. In Sallee’s History of Higher Education class, he wrote his final paper on the Stonewall riots, the birthplace of the gay rights movement, and how colleges were impacted by this movement pre- and post-Stonewall.
Venturiello’s advice for students intending to work in higher education is not to take everything so seriously. “The work we do is important and it matters, but it does not always have to be so serious because you should enjoy it and have fun,” Venturiello said. “Take risks by envisioning yourself making an impact on your community and critically reflect on the way that makes sense for you to do that and live your vision.”
He would eventually like to spread his tours across the country and globe by speaking at different colleges and universities nationally and internationally, presenting on the LGBTQ movement, advocacy and social justice. “In the words of Maya Angelou, I have learned that I still have a lot to learn because life is my favorite journey and I’m excited to see what is next,” Venturiello said.