Interview with Rob Moolman, executive director, Utah Pride Center
Rob Moolman found his passion. He was born and raised in the Rainbow Nation of South Africa, and now works under a rainbow flag in a Salt Lake City building.
As the executive director of the Utah Pride Center, Moolman works to develop and expand the organization, so it is financially stable and recognized as a vital part of the Utah LGBTQ+ community.
The Center plays a vital role in providing information, programs, referrals, and services to the diverse LGBTQ+ community in Utah. It opened in 1992 to provide a safe space for Utah’s LGBTQ+ people to come together.
The Utah Pride Center offers “cradle-to-grave” support, resources and community connections for the LGBTQ+ community of Utah. The Center has youth and family programs, a transgender program and programming for people of color and allies. It also offers strong and vibrant mental health services and offers individual, couples and group therapy.
The Pride Center works collaboratively with other LGBTQ+ organizations across Utah and with community partners in Salt Lake City. The Center is also one of only five centers in the U.S. to still produce and manage their own Pride Festival and Parade as a fundraiser for their work.
How did you get started in the industry?
I worked in education for several years and was always interested ways schools and sports clubs could be more inclusive of their gay, transgender, lesbian and queer members and students.
Upon moving to Utah, I joined the Utah Pride Center board for a year-and-a-half, and when the position of executive director became available, I knew I wanted to apply. It is wonderful contributing to this organization.
What recent professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
I am proud of the way our organization faces challenges and is open to community engagement and input. This field of work can be daunting and often confrontational, but so far, we have brought together community leaders, engaged in discussions, and tried to seek compromise where possible. In the end, I believe our organization strives to make decisions that bring people together.
The Utah Pride Center also works collaboratively with the public and our stakeholders to produce incredibly successful events. This year’s Utah Pride Festival was our biggest and most financially successful one ever. We estimate throughout the weekend, the parade and festival attracted more than 100,000 people to downtown Salt Lake City and brought community and families together.
The Center’s ability to authentically connect with stakeholders and volunteers is an important factor in our success.
What drew you to Utah?
My husband was transferred for work, and initially, we were apprehensive about moving here. Utah’s reputation did not give us the confidence we would find a space and community here. We have been proven wrong.
What do you like most about living in Utah?
I am incredibly overwhelmed at how quickly I found a community of friends in Utah. It has been easy to chat to and connect with others. I have made lasting friends in Utah and met some incredible people along the way.
What do you like most about doing business in Utah?
One of the things that I love about working in Utah is once you get talking to people, they see and understand the value the mission of the Utah Pride Center. There is a sense of family that is pervasive in Utah, and it is important to be able to connect to this.
Our mission is sometimes perceived as counter to the Utah culture, but on the whole, people are willing to engage and are interested in finding out why Utah has such a vibrant Pride Center. They often go away with a sense of appreciation for the work we do.
What advice do you have for individuals considering starting a business, or relocating their business, to Utah?
The right space and community are here for you. Sometimes it takes a bit of looking, but Utah has a variety of engaged communities. Do your best to go out and introduce yourself and your business to as many people as possible. There is a wonderfully diverse culture wanting to connect people with others that help make businesses flourish in Utah; you just have to find it.
What is your primary challenge of doing business in Utah?
Getting people to understand our mission and our work. Any work in the social justice realm comes with a tremendous amount of preconceived notions, and we work very hard to promote social change.
The Pride Center has to be a space for everyone, and this is a difficult challenge to navigate.
What is your business philosophy?
Look after each other! See each other! Hear each other!
Tell me a fun fact about yourself.
I was selected as a participant for Big Brother. (I turned down the offer!)
Is there anything else you would like the reader to know about you?
Business and school systems are better because diversity and research point to the benefits of authentic, inclusive spaces. We are too often scared of something different; we don’t understand. It is that sense of fear and a need for understanding that brought us our greatest scientific breakthroughs or most exciting discoveries.
When leaders see differences as a strength, our culture and environment are stronger.
What does the organization represent to you?
A “living, breathing oasis for our community.” This oasis wouldn’t be possible without the community’s support.