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Creating Spaces and Places Where We Grow

Director of the LGBTQ Pride Center, Charla Blumell, leans on desk and smiles in front the Pride Center's etched glass.

Returning to the Wolfpack as the new director of the LGBTQ Pride Center meant Charla Blumell ’15 could channel her energy into making a clear connection between well-being and diversity, equity and inclusion work. To Blumell, supporting student wellness is central to her goals within higher education and the work being done across campus to help students thrive.

“My charge for the Pride Center is creating a space where it’s clear we all deserve to be whole and well.” says Blumell. “It’s well-being over everything, because without it all the other stuff is really hard to sustain — or even attain — if we aren’t taking care of ourselves.”

Encouraging students, and particularly those who identify as LGBTQ+, to understand the importance of a strong sense of self and a sense of belonging to a community helps ensure they are successful while they are at NC State and when they move beyond our campus borders.

“We are very intentional about well-being and wellness and helping students see that they deserve to be well,” Blumell emphasizes.

After earning a doctoral degree in adult education from the NC State College of Education in 2015, Blumell went on to work at UNC-Chapel Hill as the assistant director of health promotion and prevention strategies and served as the board chair for the LGBTQ Center of Durham. In both roles, Blumell’s work focused on community building and outreach, which influenced her philosophy and practice of intersecting wellness and identity.

Creating a community and environment that everyone in the Wolfpack can be excited about and proud of is vital to all four of our campus community centers. It can be challenging to set the tone for any space, but especially centers with new staff members frequently joining the spaces and student groups graduating each semester. Since Blumell’s return in fall 2022, her care and intentionality with the center’s culture has permeated throughout its events and initiatives — the first of which was renaming the center.

“I want our queer students to feel that the Pride Center is their place of respite at their institution.”

In 2008, through bravery and persistence, the founding board and community around the Pride Center opened the GLBT Center, making NC State only the second university within the University of North Carolina System to open a center of this kind. Previous center directors continued the vital work of supporting LGBTQ+ students and expanding campus education on the queer community to keep the doors of the space open for community members and their allies.

“What an exciting time and opportunity this is in 2023, during the 15-year anniversary celebration, to position our center in a way to let students feel like it is their place,” says Blumell. During the renaming process, university administrators spoke with students and members of the community to determine the best way to represent the center and the people it serves moving forward.

“I want our queer students to feel that the Pride Center is their place of respite at their institution — while engaging in community-building within and outside of the center.”

Accomplishing her first big goal at NC State energized Blumell and spurred new projects for her and center staff. Through frequent collaborations with campus partners and NC State’s African American Cultural Center, Multicultural Student Affairs and Women’s Center, the LGBTQ Pride Center is able to serve students in new and creative ways that expand far beyond the walls of the center space in Talley Student Union — like at the center’s annual PrideFest event.

This fall, the event’s steering committee is encouraging the Wolfpack community to have fun, relax and participate in the restorative activities planned for the day, including the parade through main campus.

Campus partners and vendors will support the event’s goal of centering wellness through massage chairs, face painting therapy dogs and more. PrideFest is one of several ways the Pride Center is recognizing LGBTQ+ History Month throughout October.

As Blumell begins her second year as director of the LGBTQ Pride Center, she’s focused on spreading joy and kindness. From greeting someone as they walk through the door to grabbing lunch with a friend, there are ways we can all help create spaces and places where everyone in the Wolfpack can thrive. Blumell is also diving into the mission of the center to expand the ways in which the campus community can come together to make NC State a better place for everyone, including the LGBTQ+ community.

“Regardless of what is happening out in the world, it’s my hope that NC State will continue to be known as place where the LGBTQ+ community has a home.”

This post was originally published in NC State News.