Ohio Northern University student Joshua Honaker.

Ohio Northern University student Joshua Honaker has been named a 2023-24 Campus Compact Newman Civic Fellow. He is one of an elite group of only 150 student civic leaders from across the nation to receive this honor.
Campus Compact is a national coalition of colleges and universities working to advance the public purposes of higher education. The Newman Civic Fellowship recognizes students who stand out for their commitment to creating positive change in communities locally and around the world.
As a Fellow, Honaker will have access to a variety of virtual and in-person learning opportunities, and can attend the Annual Convening of Newman Civic Fellows national conference this fall.
A third-year PharmD candidate from Defiance, Ohio, Honaker is also the incoming president of the Honors Program and is pursing public health and theater technology minors.
Ohio Northern President Melissa J. Baumann, Ph.D., told Campus Compact that Honaker is “a student leader active in addressing issues of inequality facing members of Ohio’s LGBTQ+ community.” He has employed “the power of conversation and taken to the stage to tell his story to change the hearts and minds of those who oppose the rights of queer people.
Baumann said Honaker testified before the Ohio Board of Education in October and November of 2022 against an anti-transgender resolution and led a letter-writing campaign against a proposed bill to ban gender-affirming mental health and medical care to minors outlining the bill’s very real physical and emotional dangers to transgender youth. “Both personally and professionally, Joshua is committed to addressing social stigma and inequities, particularly for the LGBTQ community,” wrote the organization.
“Joshua has been an active student leader in the honors program during his time at ONU. In his school work and beyond, he's been a great example for other students to show how to be engaged in one's community, intellectually curious, and passionate in different academic areas,” said Forrest Clingerman, Ph.D., professor of religion and philosophy and Honors Program director.
Honaker’s personal statement to the Campus Compact starkly explains his hardships and triumphs.
“I came out as transgender when I was 15,” Honaker wrote. “The news spread quickly around my small high school. Acquaintances and teachers I had known for years began approaching me with invasive questions, crude jokes, or threats of violence. I empowered myself through this journey of transitioning by having conversations with these people directly, even when that meant answering the uncomfortable questions. Over time, I watched their stiff views of queerness soften.”

As an ONU student, Honaker has continued his activism. “I live by the motto, ‘Change minds by changing hearts,’ so I continued holding these conversations as I entered college,” he wrote. “When I was 20, I got on stage and told my story of coming out and a memorable interaction with a hateful stranger to an audience of a hundred people. When the Ohio legislature began working to pass anti-transgender bills a few months later, I let the fire of that performance carry me to the statehouse. There, I sat in front of a room of officials and told them my story. A month later, I did it again. By using my voice and speaking out, I have been able to reach people in ways that leave a lasting impression. This is how we make change.”
Ironically, Honaker discovered he was named a Fellow while he was heading to a conference in which he would participate in a roundtable discussion titled, “Voices for Change: How to Advocate with No Experience.”
Honaker’s belief in the positive power of storytelling, even that which involves sharing difficult personal details, helps propel his LGBTQ+ equality efforts. He’s an avid listener of the podcast “Risk!,” which features individuals sharing bold, true narratives about their experiences.
“Stories are how we connect. It’s how humans bond to each other. We each possess one narrative, one lived experience. By listening to each other, we can expand what our understanding of the world is,” he said.
When asked who his LGBTQ+ heroes are, Honaker named “the queer kids and teenagers who are scared sitting in their classrooms or their homes, just waiting until they are old enough to help themselves.” After all, he was once one of those kids. “My motivation for the work I try to do is the kids who are or will be in the position I was a few years ago. I remember being a teenager who felt powerless in an institution filled with systemic discrimination,” he explained.
As a future pharmacy professional, Honaker plans on pursuing a fellowship and career in industry pharmacy, ideally working for “a company or organization that is advocating to improve the lives of our patient population.”
Honaker’s service as a powerful advocate also begets the question for how others can help effect change, too: What does powerful LGBTQ+ allyship look like to him?
“Allyship is checking in. Allyship is not letting us handle everything alone. Allyship is reaching out, not just during Pride Month or on Transgender Day of Remembrance. Allyship is saying something when you see something homophobic or transphobic,” Honaker said.
“As a community, we have gone through a lot and we cannot always safely confront every issue at hand,” he continued. “Amplify the voices of the queer people in your life. Ask us about our stories; listen to our experiences. Like I said, we all possess a singular narrative. My narrative is queer, but my narrative is different from every other queer person I know. Understand that knowing one queer person does not mean you know us all.”
The fellowship is named for the late Frank Newman, one of Campus Compact’s founders, who was a tireless advocate for civic engagement in higher education. In the spirit of Dr. Newman’s leadership, Fellows are nominated by Campus Compact member presidents and chancellors, who are invited to select one outstanding student from their campus each year.