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Meet Our Staff

Students, faculty, staff, and community members are free to contact whomever they would like in our office and ask to meet regarding issues of gender and sexuality, based on job responsibilities, background, or personal interests. If for whatever reason you are not comfortable meeting at the KC Potter Center, staff members are happy to meet in other campus locations. We look forward to meeting you!

Christopher Purcell, Ed.D. | Director

pronouns: he/him/his

Chris has worked for social justice and equity in higher education throughout his career. He has held administrative positions at Duke University, Berklee College of Music, and now Vanderbilt, where he began as Director of LGBTQI Life in 2013.

At Vanderbilt, Chris has worked in solidarity with staff, students, faculty, and administration to advance LGBTQI initiatives and community. Upon his arrival, he led the charge to extend trans-inclusive health benefits to University employees. Under his leadership, the office has launched the popular affinity group program and expanded undergraduate housing options and all-gender restrooms across campus. He has also worked to develop presentations and resources to promote more inclusive classroom environments at the University.

Chris is a graduate of Vanderbilt’s Ed.D. program in higher education policy and leadership. His doctoral research focused on student success networks and academic advising in a small liberal arts environment. He has presented regionally and nationally on issues of LGBTQI equity, student activism, and the student affairs profession. His writing has been featured in academic journals, Inside Higher Ed, and professional association blogs. In his free time, he enjoys drag shows, concerts, playing tennis, watching Vanderbilt women’s basketball, and volunteering for community organizations. Contact Chris about: the mission and vision of LGBTQI Life, Staff and Faculty Resources, Trans@VU Updates, and the LGBTQI+ Alumni Group. 

Roberta (Rob) Nelson, MTS | Assistant Director

pronouns: they/them/elle

Rob is Lipan Apache, of the San Luis Potosi Náhua people, and identifies as Trans, working-class, Latinx and Chicanx. They hold a Master’s in Theological Studies with a focus in Religion, Ethics, and Politics from Harvard Divinity School. While at Harvard Divinity School, Rob was a founding member of the Religious Anarchist Collective and worked for the Religious Literacy Project. Rob also earned a BA in Religion and History from the University of Rochester, and an AA in Humanities and Social Sciences from Monroe Community College. Their academic interests focus on the development of American religious identity constructions at the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality. Rob also has a passion for campus and community programming that engages these points of intersection. In January 2020 Rob was awarded the Promising New Professional Award from the Consortium of LGBTQ Higher Education Resource Professionals. This award recognizes their role in supporting students and innovating campus programs while elevating the work of a campus LGBTQ Center. Additionally, they have given many talks and presentations, nationally and locally, covering the topics of the history of gender identity development, becoming an LGBTQIA+ affirming church, overcoming religious trauma, and historical diversity in the LGBTQIA+ community. Outside of work, Rob is an avid Green Bay Packers fan, a woodworker, and a gardener who watches a bit too much Sci-Fi. Contact Rob about: Training and educational sessions including  Straight Facts about LGBTQI Life, P.R.I.D.E. Trainings, Speak Out, and student support initiatives like Affinity Groups. Rob also advises the Vanderbilt Lambda Association.

Jay Bohanon, MA | Program Coordinator

pronouns: he/him/his

Jay has spent his entire professional career working in various higher education roles. He has an MA in Religious Studies from the University of Kansas, where he founded and served as the inaugural president of Queer Students of Color. He also led the movement that resulted in the ability for trans and non-binary students to not only get replacement student IDs that affirm their identities but also to get preferred names on their IDs, all at no cost to them. Jay also holds a BA in Anthropology and Religion from the University of Rochester. Outside of the office, Jay is an amateur Kansas historian, Jayhawks basketball fan, and avid reader of cooking blogs. He is also cohost of Religiously Literate, a podcast aimed at spreading religious literacy so that we see just how similar we really are. Contact Jay about events and programming, including annual events and collaborations. Jay also coordinates student leadership initiatives, graduate student involvement, and submissions to be featured in our newsletter or social media.