Venessa A. Brown

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Associate Athletic Director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Venessa A. Brown, PhD, is the inaugural associate athletic director for diversity, equity, and inclusion and chief diversity officer for intercollegiate athletics. Brown was formally the associate chancellor for the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) and chief diversity officer. She also served as associate provost in academic affairs and executive director of the SIUE East Saint Louis Center (ESLC). She holds a tenured faculty appointment as professor in the SIUE Department of Social Work. 

Brown began her academic career in 1993 as an assistant professor of sociology and social work in the Department of Social Sciences at Greenville College. Following her commitment to accredited social work programs, Brown accepted a position at SIUE in 1995 as an assistant professor to start the Masters in Social Work (MSW) program. In this role, she contributed to the successful efforts to make the BSW/MSW program fully accredited. She was tenured and promoted in 2001, full professor in 2006, and department chair from 2006–2007.

Brown is a native of Missouri, earned her bachelor’s in social work and psychology at Greenville College in 1983, an MSW from Atlanta University School of Social Work in 1985, and a PhD in social work with a concentration in statistics and computer science from Clark Atlanta University in 1994. After attending her master’s program, she worked as a child welfare investigator for the State of Georgia. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. 

Brown is nationally and internationally known for her commitment to public child welfare. Her expertise is in child sexual abuse, and she has also been recognized for teaching and international activities. She has worked with the juvenile court and superior courts on behalf of children. Her past students have become leaders in the region. In addition to publishing articles and book chapters, she is the lead author of “A Promising Reality: Race, Culture, and Gender in Cuba,” published by Peter Lang, “Child Welfare Case Studies,” published by Allyn & Bacon, now Pearson, and a textbook, “Community-Based Child Welfare Practice with Multicultural Families.”

Over the years, she has been a principal investigator on state and federally funded grants. Under her leadership as the executive director of the SIUE ESLC, she oversaw grant-funded programs totaling approximately $15 million. She also secured a $1 million cash gift to the university to open a state-of-the-art STEM Technology Lab for the SIUE Charter High School in East St. Louis, Ill. In 2018, she was instrumental in securing an additional $3.7 million cash gift to continue STEM education for the Charter High School. Her research focuses on mentoring, diversity and inclusion, child welfare history inclusive of people of color, and international child welfare.