Date of Award

Spring 5-21-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Robin L. Roth

Second Advisor

Donna M. San Antonio

Third Advisor

Leila V. Moore


This study examined the experiences of 20 student affairs professionals who played a pivotal role in the establishment of LGBTQ pride centers at public four-year institutions of higher education in the Bible Belt. Since the first pride center opened at the University of Michigan in 1971, pride centers have been a critical resource for supporting LGBTQ college students. In the Bible Belt, 28 pride centers have been successfully established by professionals despite social, fiscal, and religious conservatism negatively influencing public support of LGBTQ initiatives. However, best practices for establishment in this region have not emerged. Understanding the experiences of individuals who overcame challenges in the Bible Belt, where establishment is least likely, can provide future student affairs professionals with strategies for establishing their own centers.

Using narrative inquiry, semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposively selected group of participants from 12 public four-year higher education institutions across seven states in the Bible Belt. Interview transcripts were coded and thematically analyzed using queer theory as a theoretical framework (Jagose, 1996; Kirsch, 2001; Pinar, 1998).

Findings revealed the role of participants in pride center establishment, sociocultural challenges experienced, and strategies used to address those challenges. Role of participants was threefold: to build new partnerships with allies while both supporting and centralizing existing LGBTQ services. Sociocultural challenges included: institutional heterosexism; conservative religious views on gender/sexuality; and social/fiscal conservatism. Strategies to address challenges involved: coalition building with student affairs colleagues; engagement with campus leaders; and strategic planning, research, and documentation focused on center development. Findings have best practice implications for establishing centers in the Bible Belt and elsewhere.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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