5 Questions for a Brunonian: BAPA Co-Chairs Mara Gottlieb ’93 and Tyler Rubin ’99

As co-chairs of the Brown Alumni Pride Association, formerly TBGALA, Gottlieb and Rubin are committed to celebrating all members of Brown’s diverse and dynamic LGBTQIA+ community.

Mara Gottlieb ’93 and Tyler Rubin ’99 are no strangers to advocating for inclusion. With their new roles as co-chairs of the Brown Alumni Pride Association (BAPA), the pair hopes to transform Brown’s official LGBTQIA+ alumni affinity group into a living resource for queer students and alumni alike.

As an undergraduate, Rubin was empowered by Brown’s Open Curriculum to explore classes and topics outside of his traditional comfort zone. Ever since graduation, he’s been channeling this same intellectual curiosity to empower others. He served as vice chair of his town’s historic preservation commission, was a committee leader of his community’s anti-racism advocacy group, and is an active member of his company’s LGBTQIA+ affinity group. Today, Rubin serves as the Director of Internal Audit for Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a nationally recognized nonprofit that supports local development projects in communities across the country.   

At Brown, Gottlieb was inspired to think critically about the systemic injustices carried out against women, people of color, and members of queer community — and how unconscious biases often perpetuate them. She continued her education at New York University, earning master’s and doctorate degrees in social work. In 1999, Gottlieb founded Talking Changes Training and Consulting, an organization that leads DEI-based training sessions to foster more inclusive work environments. As president of Talking Changes, she has worked with clients ranging from the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, the Good Shepherd Services, and more.

Why do you do what you do?


I consider myself fortunate to be part of an organization focused on increasing economic opportunity and equity, improving access to education and healthcare, and promoting justice throughout the country. Throughout my career, I have been highly influenced by my education at Brown. I learned to critically consider and wrestle with the concepts of cultural relativism and advocacy — the lines between observation and resistance, and whether or not these areas could comfortably co-exist. This tension ultimately led me into careers in both law and urban planning, and ultimately to where I am today.


Brown will forever be indelibly written into the script of my life. It was at Brown that I became the student leader of the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center under Gigi DiBello, who sent me to a diversity training that opened the door to my professional path. The training created an environment where everyone felt seen, valued, and respected: where we were allowed to be our authentic selves and talk about the stereotypes that had been held about us. I realized I wanted to create that kind of safe space for others. Through teaching at the university level for 14 years and having my own training consultancy, Talking Changes, that is what I’ve endeavored to do ever since then.

Why Brown?


The Open Curriculum truly had its desired effect on me. It challenged me to set my own goals and gave me the confidence to study areas I otherwise would have probably resented had I been required to study them. While I was typically comfortable in history, English, and social science classes, at Brown I found myself enjoying classes in physics, geology, and engineering, all based on my own curiosity or what I learned from friends. What I also liked about Brown was that there wasn’t a prescribed way of doing things, which made me feel free to set my own pace as I grew into adulthood.


I attended Brown Summer Academy during the summer between my junior and senior years in high school. At 52 I’m somewhat chagrined to say that it was the best summer of my entire life.  I was away from home, among other intelligent, curious people. There was no judgment about being straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual, and there was a sense of acceptance and warmth that I think human beings have a difficult time creating with one another. Brown felt like it had no limits to what one could be, do, or learn.

BAPA sits at the intersections of many communities and identities. It’s our responsibility to honor all of their stories.

Tyler Rubin '99 co-chair, Brown Alumni Pride Association (BAPA)
Tyler Rubin '99

What are your hopes for the future of BAPA?


BAPA sits at the intersections of many communities and identities. It’s our responsibility to honor all of their stories. What I hope is that BAPA will develop into a living resource for the on-campus and alumni communities. It is also important to me that we ensure that BAPA recognizes that, through most of this country’s history, the LGBTQIA+ community was largely silenced or erased. While we indeed want to celebrate the visible progress and LGBTQIA+ representation on campus, as an alumni group I hope that we can also find a way to recognize the members of our community who may have felt unseen or unable to be their full selves for any reason during their time at Brown.


First and foremost, I want to send a shout-out to Ryan Grubbs who carried this torch pretty much on his own for nearly a decade. I am amazed and delighted by how well my co-chair, Tyler Rubin, and I work together and complement one another. The whole steering committee is proving to have a wide variety of strengths and interests that will make us a formidable force. My hopes for BAPA are to create a space that makes LGBTQIA+ alumni feel connected to Brown and each other, and to serve as a support, knowledge, and networking resource for all members. I think the nonbinary, genderqueer, and trans communities have felt less supported by the group in the past, and I’m hoping we can help change that.

Community and connection make life worth living, but we also can’t truly succeed or grow to our fullest potential without them. Through in-person and virtual events, I hope BAPA creates a sense of community and connectedness for all LGBTQIA+ alumni.

Mara Gottlieb '93 co-chair, Brown Alumni Pride Association (BAPA)
Mara Gottlieb '93

Why are affinity groups like BAPA so important?


I think affinity groups are an excellent launch pad for creating a larger, more diverse alumni community. They offer another layer of connection to the University that provides a unique opportunity to interact with alumni with shared interests, backgrounds, or cultures who you may not otherwise have had the opportunity to meet while in school.


I’m being very candid here, but it’s total crap that we’re supposed to live life by “pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps.” If you think about the physics of it, even if my boots have straps, I still need a handout or a leg up to get off the ground. Community and connection make life worth living, but we also can’t truly succeed or grow to our fullest potential without them. Through in-person and virtual events, I hope BAPA creates a sense of community and connectedness for all LGBTQIA+ alumni.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to become more involved in activism or organizing within their community?


For me, the hardest part about embracing activism is the initial push to get involved. Not everyone is an extrovert or comfortable in unfamiliar situations, but many people do have a desire to effectuate change and fight against injustice. 


Make sure it’s a subject you feel passionate enough about to stick with it: the road is a lot longer than expected. Find partnerships so when (not if) you burn out, you can hand the baton off to someone else for a while, then pick it up further down the track. Be curious and patient about hearing many people’s perspectives to ensure you can be as effective as possible.

Calling all LGBTQIA+ Brunonians

Want to help celebrate and support Brown’s LGBTQIA+ community? Learn more about the Brown Alumni Pride Association (BAPA) and how you can get involved.

Seeking lives of “usefulness and reputation”

The Brown alumni community is full of trailblazers, problem solvers, critical thinkers, entrepreneurs, and people who defy all boxes. And their stories may inspire others. Nominate an alum to be profiled in this “5 Questions for a Brunonian” series by emailing brunonia@brown.edu today.