Dr. Terri Phoenix leads a dynamic and growing LGBTQ Center at Carolina. The center aims to foster a welcoming and inclusive environment for the University community no matter their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Phoenix, or “T,” and center staff focus on education, direct support and advocacy, and social and cultural events to advance their work, but the center has a higher calling.
“While we aim to serve the needs of Carolina’s LGBTQ community, we are here as a resource for the entire community, as well as anyone with LGBTQ individuals in their lives,” Phoenix said. “I’ve spoken to many parents of LGBTQ students who want to ensure that their child will have a good experience, will have a safe place, and that the climate is inclusive and accepting.”
The center offers numerous programs and resources, including the LGBTQ Center resource library, Trans Talk Tuesday, Drop-in Support Hours, Safe Zone, tailored trainings for departments and organizations, as well as one-on-one meetings with trained staff.
The Center also hosts social and cultural events that allow LGBTIQA+ and allied communities to gather and new people as well as for mutual support and networking. Examples include the Welcome Back Celebration, NC Pride, Transgender Day of Remembrance, Lavender Graduation, First Fridays and Graduate Social Hour and a Half.
Phoenix noted that while significant progress is underway on and off campus, there are still challenges. “It’s a significant achievement to see the change in the design standard to include gender non-specific restrooms in buildings on campus and elsewhere,” T said. “We’ve also facilitated adding gender identity and gender expression to the University’s non-discrimination statement, a major step forward. But it was sobering to have the gender non-specific housing approved by our Board of Trustees, then be unable to implement it as a result of Board of Governors decisions. That is something we plan to focus on in addition to work surrounding transition-related health care. We are extremely proud of the work we’re doing and the growth we’re experiencing, but we need, and should, do more.
Phoenix outlined three key areas that the Center would like to focus on to expand its services:
1) A Director’s Discretionary Fund
To provide flexibility to direct funding strategically to areas of need. For example, continuing the Center After Dark Program, expanding Safe Zone, or conducting a Pride Resource Fair, among others.
2) Endowed Fund for Student Support
To help LGBTQ students with emergency situations, such as help with tuition/aid due to changes in their financial situation, emergency housing or health issues.
3) Continue and Expand the LGBTQ Leadership Lunch
To support a monthly lunchtime session on a topic that will help LGBTIQA+ identified students, faculty, staff and community members and allies refine and develop leadership skills relevant to their personal and professional lives. It is meant to help clarify what it means to be a leader in the LGBTQ community and includes mentorship, practicum and creating a leadership charge conference.
“We are going to be increasingly dependent on private funds to fulfill our mission, and we aim to be more proactive in our efforts to garner that support throughout the Campaign for Carolina and beyond,” T said. “We fulfill a critically important role of supporting our community and creating a welcoming and inclusive climate that is not duplicated anywhere else on campus.”
T is a graduate of East Carolina University (B.A.), UNC-Greensboro (M.S.) and the University of Georgia (Ph.D.), and served on the executive board for the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals. Dr. Phoenix has more than 20 years’ experience working with youth in various settings including therapeutic group homes, detention centers, psychiatric hospitals, high schools, and non-profit organizations. T has given numerous invited and peer-reviewed presentations on cultural competency and inclusive practices at local, regional, and national conferences. Dr. Phoenix lives in Durham, North Carolina with wife, Kendra and daughter, Duncan.