CSGD Welcomes New Director

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Chris Heltne
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Bernadette Brown has been named the new director of the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity (CSGD) at Duke.

“She brings strong management skills, expertise in LGBTQ issues, theories and perspectives,” said Zoila Airall, who oversees CSGD as VP of Campus Life for Student Affairs at Duke. “Her colleagues describe her as someone they will miss because of her encyclopedic mind, engaging sense of humor and commitment to social justice issues.”

Throughout the Fall semester, “Queering Duke History” has commemorated a turbulent 50 years of LGBT life and progress on campus. Brown’s arrival on Jan. 5 will be an integral part of the next chapter of this story.

“Duke has a very interesting social justice trajectory, especially pertaining to race, cisgender women, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression (SOGIE). The LGBTQI community here, in particular, has a rich history,” Brown said. “CSGD, the LGBTQI undergraduate and graduate student groups, the LGBT Task Force and the LGBT Alumni Network all have had, and will continue to have, a profoundly beneficial impact on the lives of the LGBTQI community at Duke and beyond.”

Brown has dedicated much of her professional career to advancing social justice, with particular emphasis on those who exist outside the heteronormative and/or transgress gender roles. Most recently with the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, she has been co-managing the “Improving Permanency for LGBT Youth” project that works to improve stability for LGBTQI youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice system in California.

“My work is really about facilitating interpersonal and institutional relationships that will create equity and inclusivity for the LGBTQI community, and doing this with an intersectional lens so that none of our identities (e.g., race or ethnicity, SOGIE, religion, immigration status, socioeconomic status, veteran status, physical and/or mental abilities) are ignored,” Brown said

Stephanie Helms Pickett, director of Duke’s Women’s Center, met with Brown during the lengthy interview process. “I found Bernadette to be excited about building upon the foundation and powerful history of the work of the Center through engaging with the community,” Helms Pickett said. “Personally, I am excited about the depth and expertise I believe she will bring to the Campus Life team.”

The excitement Helms Pickett refers to comes through in Brown’s own words. “I'm tremendously excited about working with everyone to continue this work and explore new paths to promote and support LGBTQI inclusion,” Brown said. “Many LGBTQI students come here struggling with accepting their SOGIE, some are trying to determine if they are going to be "out" with respect to their SOGIE, some are dealing with family conflict around their SOGIE, and some are trying to reconcile their religious and/or political beliefs with their SOGIE. The same is true for many of Duke's faculty and staff. These are serious concerns and CSGD is here to support them as they move through this journey.”

Brown comes to Duke from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency in Oakland, California, where she focused on LGBT youth and welfare within the juvenile justice system. She has held numerous positions around the country focusing on social justice for a variety of communities. Brown holds a juris doctorate from Boston University School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Columbia University. She has conducted numerous trainings and presentations on social justice and the LGBT community, including LGBTI Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) trainings for The National PREA Resource Center, a cooperative agreement with the Bureau of Justice Assistance, for those seeking to become certified PREA auditors by the US Department of Justice. Brown was raised in Detroit. She has one son, and is obsessed with gargoyles, which is yet another reason she can’t wait to get to Duke.

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