Stephanie Mahnke, a higher education professional with extensive experience serving the LGBTQIA+ community and marginalized students, has been named director of the K.C. Potter Center and LGBTQI Life at Vanderbilt University.
Mahnke joins Vanderbilt from Utah Valley University, where she has been an assistant professor of English and literature since 2019. She served as a facilitator for diversity, equity and inclusion workshops and LGBTQ+ faculty and staff learning circles and as a member of the LGBTQ+ Task Force and Curriculum at UVU. Mahnke also helped develop that university’s Gender and Sexuality Foundations of Inclusion Workshop.
“I am delighted to welcome Professor Mahnke to our Vanderbilt family and eager to join her in the transformative work of serving our community,” said André L. Churchwell, vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer. “Her intersectional approach and experience serving the LGBTQIA+ community will strengthen our work to create an even more welcoming and inclusive environment for the entire Vanderbilt community.”
In addition to significant service with the LGBTQIA+ community, Mahnke is actively involved in numerous professional organizations, such as the Filipino American National Historical Society, the Filipino Youth Initiative and the Philippine American Association of Utah, among others. Prior to her time at UVU, Mahnke served in many leadership roles and engaged in broad community service while pursuing her doctorate in rhetoric and writing with an emphasis on cultural rhetoric from Michigan State University. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Los Angeles and a master of arts degree in English from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
“I’m thrilled to become part of the Vanderbilt community. The K.C. Potter Center and its previous leadership have contributed to such a rich and important history, and I’m humbled and honored to join that lineage and continue this critical work,” Mahnke said. “It was immediately apparent, from my first interaction with the Vanderbilt community, that there are dynamic networks of faculty, staff, alumni, students and community leaders committed to serving and celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community here. I’m excited to join and work with folks who share a deep faith in community and collective care.”
Mahnke brings considerable experience working in equity, diversity and inclusion as well as project and programmatic development for minoritized and historically underserved communities. She has taught queer theory in tandem with queer rhetorics, as well as its intersectional relationships with indigenous, disabled, Latinx and feminist rhetorics, among others. Her pedagogy also draws attention to how Native-centered and tribally specific understandings of gender and sexuality might critique colonialism, queer-phobia, racism and misogyny. She is deeply committed to social justice through service and collaboration with communities. While in Michigan, she worked with The Underground Project: Lansing’s Lost LGBTQIA+ Spaces, a project that collected oral histories from community members and aimed at preserving the heritage of LGBTQIA+ spaces.
Brianna Nesbitt, assistant director of the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center, has served as interim director of LGBTQI Life since the departure of former interim director Rob Nelson. “I am incredibly grateful to Brianna for her willingness to step in to serve the greater Vanderbilt community as we searched for the permanent director,” Churchwell said.
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