Kelly Clark, Q Center director at Binghamton University, is retiring at the end of this semester after successfully establishing and leading the Q Center since the fall of 2016.
Clark has been an avid social justice educator and advocate for over 30 years. Prior to BU, Clark served as director of community safety programs for the Out Alliance in Rochester, New York. In that role, Clark created and led cultural competency training that focused on working with LGBTQ victims of violence. In 2015, Clark saw an advertisement for a director position at BU and successfully applied. Clark said she found support in the BU community when establishing the Q Center.
“Just like in business, startups are a whole challenge in and of themselves,” Clark wrote in an email. “But honestly, one of the things I tell everyone is that BU was in a great place to develop a new LGBTQ center. Anything I ever thought we should do was supported. Everyone at the University has given their time and talent to make the Center a reality.”
The Q Center has grown in size over the past five years. Currently, there are around 25 student staff members, interns and volunteers combined. Ian Shick, program coordinator at the Q Center, said they see firsthand the positive impact Clark has had on BU students.
“Her warmth and energy are so infectious, you just can’t help [but] believe that anything is possible,” Shick wrote in an email. “I think my favorite memory of working with Clark was watching her make pancakes for a staff appreciation party during my first year working. She was so excited and the care she showed the people that work with us is something I will carry with me forever.”
Clark’s vision and work ethic played a large role in the development, growth and prominence of the Q Center at BU, according to Shick.
“Clark is a dreamer,” Shick wrote. “She believes nothing is too big or too far out there to achieve, the only thing necessary is that you believe in the vision. This has been everything to the Center since it is so young. She instilled in everyone that this Center should have no limits and should be exactly what we want it to be and not what anyone else wants or decides.”
During her time at the Q Center, Clark has left her mark on the BU community. One of her accomplishments is the Pegasus First-Year Experience Program (FYE). The program features a course, University-wide 101Q: ABCs of LGBTQ, which encourages discussion among students about LGBTQ identities, history and current events. Kayci Rudge, a junior double-majoring in psychology and women, gender and sexuality studies, described how Clark encouraged them to take the class, which led to their successful application to the Pegasus Programming Board internship.
“[Clark] was the one to encourage my parents to sign me up for the FYE seminar during orientation and the one to cheer me on and work closely with me throughout my internship,” Rudge wrote in an email. “She brought such a fierce dedication and friendliness to every Q Center event, staff meeting and volunteer appreciation party and will be deeply missed.”
Even though Clark is retiring, she is not leaving BU completely. Clark is planning on working with the new director during the transition process. In addition, Clark will continue teaching the FYE seminar in the fall as an adjunct instructor.
Throughout her time at BU, Clark helped spread awareness about the LGBTQ community and was a role model to Jacob Aaronson, a senior majoring in computer engineering. Aaronson described how Clark fostered a positive and safe environment for everyone at the Q Center.
“Thanks to Clark’s vision and dedication, the Q Center is now a home away from home for so many BU students like me, who came to college looking for a space where they could find community,” Aaronson wrote in an email. “By making [BU] a better place to be queer, Clark has made an enormous difference in the lives of countless BU students.”