LGBTQ Leader Justin T. Brown (Ph.D. ’17) Spearheads CLAGS

Justin Brown
On July 1, less than two months after walking in this year’s commencement ceremony, Justin T. Brown (Ph.D. ’17, Critical Social/Personality Psychology) took on a new role at the Graduate Center — as the new executive director of CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies.
Heading up a research center might seem like a daunting challenge for someone who only recently completed a doctoral program. But this isn’t the first time Brown has broken the mold: he recently started his fourth year as a tenure-track assistant professor of Health Sciences at LaGuardia Community College.

And in his spare time, he is also taking a few last classes to earn his master’s degree from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy. (Brown already holds an M.A. and an M.Phil. in Psychology from the GC.)

Brown credits the CUNY system for making these opportunities possible. “LaGuardia has been very supportive — as an institution, within my own department, and within my own program area,” Brown said. “And being in this space here at the GC, and doing this work with CLAGS, is very connected with the work that I have been doing and want to pursue in the future.”
CLAGS has a storied history: it is the oldest LGBTQ-focused university research center in the United States. The center supports scholarship, hosts events throughout the academic year, and provides network-building opportunities among academics, activists, policymakers, and other community members.
Professor Kevin Nadal (GC/John Jay, Psychology), CLAGS’s previous director, “reinvigorated the center by broadening its scope and taking a more interdisciplinary approach,” Brown said. He hopes to continue building upon those efforts.
“CLAGS has extended its reach beyond the institution and larger academy,” Brown said. “I want to continue expanding that reach, and also to deepen CLAGS’s relationships throughout CUNY.” As a CLAGS executive director based at one of the community colleges, Brown emphasizes the importance of education and experiential learning for students. “It’s important to reach out to the other colleges and campuses within the CUNY system to build a stronger network, to create an educational pipeline, provide opportunities to undergraduate students at both the two-year and four-year institutions, and to give all students more exposure to CLAGS and the work that we do.”
During his student years, Brown ran a nonprofit social service agency for LGBTQ youth, primarily LGBTQ youth of color, in Boston. Though he attended CLAGS events and had considered earning a certificate in LGBTQ studies in addition to completing the health concentration during his doctoral studies, this is the first time he has worked for CLAGS in an official capacity.

“Dr. Brown brings to CLAGS a wide-range of leadership and scholarship experiences that fit the needs of the communities we represent,” said Professor David Rivera (Queens College, Educational & Community Programs), who led the search. “The board of directors appreciated his vision for increasing the long-term sustainability of CLAGS and maintaining CLAGS’s presence as a local and national leader in LGBTQ Studies.”
For his part, Brown said he is “humbled and honored” to have the opportunity to lead CLAGS. “When I began my doctoral studies, I was focused on pursuing a traditional academic faculty position, but over time and after exposures to a broad range of professional avenues, I realized that a diverse set of career trajectories were open to me,” he said. “This position allows me to work collaboratively with an excellent team of staff, board members, organizations, institutions, and community members to continue striving toward achieving equity for our community.”

Submitted on: SEP 7, 2017

Category: 365 Fifth Newsletter | Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS) | Diversity | General GC News