AAHS welcomes Vanessa Gomez Brake, 2019 UU Humanist Award Winner and Associate Dean of Religious Life at USC

For our November Freethinker Forum, AAHS is honored to welcome Vanessa Gomez Brake, Associate Dean of Religious Life at USC and recipient of the 2019 UU Humanist Association’s Person of the Year Award.

This month, we’ll meet in the Sanctuary on Sunday, November 24 at 12 Noon.

Vanessa is the first Humanist chaplain to serve in her capacity at any American university. In her role, she works to support and promote university religious and spiritual life broadly conceived. She helps oversee more than 90 student religious groups and 50 religious directors on campus. She also provides confidential counseling and support to immigrant and international students.

Vanessa received the Person of the Year award at the UU Humanist Association’s annual meeting at UU General Assembly in Spokane, WA, in June. The UUHA board has roundly expressed gratitude for Vanessa’s role in higher learning, which reaffirms the value humanism brings to any spiritually and religiously diverse community. Amanda Poppei, President of the UUHA, frames Vanessa’s work and role on even grander terms. “Vanessa’s work as the first-ever humanist university religious affairs official highlights the growth of humanism as a core part of America’s religious landscape.”

Awarded annually, the UU Humanist Association Person of the Year Award honors individuals whose work affirms, promotes, and advances the ideals of Humanism within the Unitarian Universalist Association or in society at large. It recognizes leadership and effort in promoting values reflected in the UU Humanist Association’s Mission.

All are welcome to join us for a lively discussion moderated by James. Contact: aahs@uusm.org

More about Vanessa:

Vanessa Gomez Brake is the Associate Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California. She is the first humanist chaplain to serve in this capacity at any American university. By the recommendation of Provost Quick’s Advisory Task Force on Immigration, Vanessa also provides confidential counseling and support to immigrant and international students.

Previously, Vanessa worked at Stanford University’s Office for Religious Life, where she helped lead campus programming and worked closely with numerous student religious groups. At Stanford, she organized ceremonies, events, programs, and worship services at the historic Stanford Memorial Church and CIRCLE: Center for Inter-Religious Community, Learning, and Experiences. Additionally, she played a supporting role at the Windhover Contemplative Center, and the campus-wide series Contemplation-by-Design. Vanessa also coordinated a delegation of Stanford students and staff to attend the Parliament of World Religions in 2015.

As an accomplished Filipino folk dancer and multi-instrumentalist, Vanessa has performed at the White House and Carnegie Hall for Filipino American History Month celebrations. Her folk artistry is an extension of her interfaith work, as her performances showcase the diverse traditions, rituals, and beliefs of Muslim, Christian, and indigenous peoples of the Philippines.

Vanessa received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Religious Studies and Psychology from Arizona State University. She received her Master of Science degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University. She is currently completing her Master of Divinity degree at the Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS), where she also received the 2018 Rabbi Herman E. Schaalman Interreligious Leadership Award. In 2019, she was the recipient of the Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association – Person of the Year Award. She holds a Certificate in Humanist Studies & Leadership from the Humanist Institute, and is endorsed as a humanist chaplain by the Humanist Society.

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