Vanderbilt creates role to help navigate questions, concerns, support for LGBTQI+ community

Vanderbilt University is creating a position to help navigate questions, concerns and support for LGBTQI+ students, faculty and staff members. The new role, program coordinator for gender diversity, will be within the new People, Culture and Belonging division and will collaborate closely with the K.C. Potter Center for LGBTQI Life, Faculty Affairs, Student Affairs, the Office of Health and Wellness and other relevant areas on campus.

The university’s task force, convened by the chancellor’s and provost’s offices in March 2023, recommended creating the position to help foster an inclusive campus experience that promotes educational success, well-being and belonging—particularly in the context of a new state law banning gender-affirming care for those younger than 18. Another new law restricting certain adult cabaret shows has implications for drag performances in Tennessee. The law has raised questions about applications of the law for transgender and gender-nonconforming people in their daily lives. The enforcement status of both laws continues to evolve because they are in active litigation.

“At Vanderbilt, we are now, and will always be, committed to supporting the success, health and well-being of our LGBTQI+ community. We will continue to foster a supportive and inclusive environment for all members of our community,” Chancellor Daniel Diermeier said in a message to the Vanderbilt community in March.

Vanderbilt offers additional benefits and resources, including a travel/lodging benefit in the employee health plan for out-of-state care that is included in the plan but unavailable in the employee’s home state. Specialized mental health services and support are available to employees who are members of the LGBTQI+ community, and their families, through Vanderbilt’s mental health service provider, Lyra. All Vanderbilt University employees and their family members are eligible to receive 12 counseling sessions per household member each year at no cost.

Students can find more information about benefits in the student health plan. Additionally, students can apply for assistance through the Student Critical Support Fund and Student Care Coordination that helps with unexpected medical and/or mental health expenses that may impact a student’s success.

The university’s Student Health Center provides comprehensive care sensitive to students’ sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The University Counseling Center offers virtual and in-person sessions specifically for LGBTQI+ students, as well as the Continuum Support Group for students wishing to give and receive support around sexual identity and/or gender identity.


The LGBTQI+ Task Force webpage provides information about resources for the Vanderbilt community and an opportunity to submit anonymous suggestions and feedback to the task force.

The task force is led by Kitt Carpenter, E. Bronson Ingram Professor and University Distinguished Professor of Economics and of Health Policy and founder and director of Vanderbilt’s LGBTQ+ Policy Lab. Carpenter also holds appointments in the Law School; Leadership Policy and Organizations; Medicine, Health and Society; and Gender and Sexuality Studies.

Others serving on the task force include:

  • G.L. Black, vice provost for student affairs and dean of students
  • Laura Mariko Cheifetz, assistant dean of admissions, vocation and student life, Vanderbilt Divinity School
  • Pam Jones, associate vice chancellor for health and wellness
  • Luis Leyva, assistant professor of mathematics education and faculty affiliate in the Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies
  • Stephanie Mahnke, director of the K.C. Potter Center for LGBTQI Life at Vanderbilt
  • Kevin Niswender, associate professor of medicine and executive medical director of VIVID Health
  • Ciera V. Scott, associate director for community engagement, University Counseling Center
  • Michelle Tellock, deputy general counsel, Office of the General Counsel
  • Catherine A. Wood, executive director, Total Rewards, Human Resources
  • Kosha Tucker, associate vice chancellor and chief of staff, Office of the Provost (ex officio)

The LGBTQI+ Task Force will continue to work with students, student organizations, faculty and staff to assess the impact of legislation, suggest ideas for building belonging within the interconnected Vanderbilt community and serve as a resource for academic discussion and policy.

The task force, in conjunction with campus partners, is planning multiple events for the coming academic year addressing legal and medical issues surrounding gender affirming care. In the first of these, C.P. Hoffman, senior policy counsel with the National Center for Transgender Equality, will deliver the Dean’s Diversity Lecture in the Vanderbilt Law School on Tuesday, Oct. 24. The event will be 12:30–1:30 p.m. in Flynn Auditorium at the Vanderbilt Law School. More details about this and other events will be posted on the LGBTQI+ Task Force webpage as they become available and will be shared with the Vanderbilt community.