MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Committed to building and supporting a safe and welcoming diverse community, West Virginia University is launching a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer center on campus, with a nationally known scholar of gender and sexuality at the helm.
Dr. Cris Mayo, currently the director of online learning and a professor of education policy, organization and leadership at the University of Illinois, will assume administrative duties as director of the WVU LGBTQ center on July 1, 2016 and has also been appointed as a full professor in the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies.
In the interim, Dr. T. Anne Hawkins, clinical director of the Carruth Center for Psychological and Psychiatric Services will lead the center. Hawkins also chairs the Commission for LGBTQ Equity at WVU.
The center is a dream come true for the LGBTQ community, Hawkins said.
“I’m beyond grateful,” said Hawkins. “We’ve worked towards a center for years, but now we’re getting far more than we even wished for.”
The Commission for LGBTQ Equity proposed the center to President E. Gordon Gee shortly after he took office in 2014. He was immediately supportive.
“At West Virginia University, we are deeply committed to diversity and inclusivity. Our new LGBTQ center will help us continue to build and foster the spirit of collaboration and understanding on campus, as well as across the state,” Gee said. “These types of bold new initiatives make a difference in West Virginia – and I am proud that we are helping to lead the way.”
Gee brought the proposal to the attention of Provost Joyce McConnell, a long-time LGBTQ advocate, and she charged the commission with creating a job description for a director of the proposed center.
This is where things got really exciting, according to Hawkins. Because while the commission members drew up a job description for a director who would be able to get a center started, McConnell’s office identified Dr. Cris Mayo and asked if she might be interested in the job.
“Dr. Mayo is an incredibly distinguished scholar in the field and a proven leader,” McConnell said. “The online learning programs she oversees at Illinois are ranked in the top ten in the nation, while her publication record indicates that she looks at gender and sexuality issues across disciplines and from a visionary perspective. We are so excited to welcome her to West Virginia University.”
Hawkins, who was named interim director in October, is committed to developing the infrastructure and building blocks for the center that will allow Dr. Mayo to step into the role next summer.
“We are developing this in a way that is really innovative,” she said. “Most centers start small and hope to develop an academic arm over many years. We’re going to start five or even ten years down the path by opening a center that is already strongly engaged in the academic life of the institution.”
The new center will partner with Women’s and Gender Studies. “As a program focusing on academic disciplines rooted in advocacy efforts, we are excited to have a relationship with the LGBTQ center,” said WGST director Jennifer Orlikoff. “It will allow our students and members of the LGBTQ community opportunities to explore the primary concerns in LGBTQ studies, not just within the classroom but also right outside our front doors.”
Mayo herself said she is “very excited” to assume the directorship of the WVU LGBTQ center and “grateful to the hard work done by members of the WVU community to keep the LGBTQ Center project moving and growing. Given their energy and the support of the administration and faculty, we’re well positioned to continue to improve the climate on campus and beyond.”