Oregon State’s Pride Center has come a long way since it was established in 2001. And it’s thanks to dedicated students, volunteers and allies. 

In 1999, members of the Rainbow Continuum Student group decided it was time for LGBTQIA+ students to have a dedicated space to connect, share, work and learn. Together with Student Involvement, they fought through opposition from some on campus and budgeted for a temporary space outside the Student Involvement office. Originally known as the Queer Resource Center when it was approved by the Student Fees Committee in 2001, it was renamed the Pride Center and moved to its current location on SW A Avenue in 2004. 

Building relationships across generations

More than two decades of progress is a significant milestone — and the Pride Center marked the occasion in collaboration with the OSU Alumni Association by hosting the Rainbow Connect event in May. It included music, prizes and updates on a renovation of the center that began last summer. Most importantly, it opened opportunities for conversation and relationship-building between alumni and current students, including first-year students living in the Pride Special Interest Community. 

Pride Center Director Cindy Konrad says community spaces haven’t always been set up for the LGBTQIA+ community to build intergenerational relationships, making events like Rainbow Connect essential. 

Expanding a welcoming space

Many students already call the Pride Center home, but its current size doesn’t have the space to accommodate its growing community. The renovation will provide a quiet area for meditation, a covered outdoor area for gatherings and a space for Counseling and Psychological Services counselors to hold one-on-one sessions. In addition, the building will become more accessible to accommodate neurodivergent students and those with disabilities.

To create a place that would feel like home to the LGBTQIA+ community, Pride Center staff worked with groups of interior design students in the College of Business to bring their vision to life — using furniture, colors and styles that represent those who gather there.

Persistence comes full circle 

Konrad says one of the best things about her role is seeing students find their voices — exploring who they are and who they want to be. For Ellen Dishman, one of the center’s founders, the effort has been constantly affirming. 

Dishman, who now serves on the Rainbow Connect Alumni Network Board, says it feels incredible knowing the fight for equality and a space for LGBTQIA+ students to call their own has made such an impact on the university for the last two decades. 

“The snowball effect of that one change has been a true inspiration to me,” she says. “It gives me so much hope for the future and so much belief in the power of students to change the world.”