students in lounge
Chanel Craft Tanner headshot

We are proud to announce the selection of Chanel Craft Tanner as our next Director. Tanner, who will join the Women’s Center in June, has spent much of her career in leadership roles at Emory University where she earned her PhD in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She has served as the Director of the Center for Women at Emory since 2017, focusing on creating programs, events, and learning opportunities that recognize and redress historic and persistent gender inequity at Emory and beyond. 

“Our conversations during Chanel’s interview visit revealed the energy, experience, and intelligence that she brings,” said Wynne Stuart, Associate Provost for Academic Support and Classroom Management, who chaired the search committee. “I am very excited to work with her as she develops a vision highlighting the best of our programs while creating new ones for the University community of today and tomorrow. Chanel adds palpable warmth, ability to listen, and imagination to her other qualities as a good leader.”

Tanner, who also holds an MA in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Georgia State University and a BA in Political Science from the University of Maryland, is a member of the internationally recognized Crunk Feminist Collective, where she writes and speaks about popular culture informed by expertise in Black feminism and hip-hop studies. She is the co-author (along with Brittney Cooper and Susana Morris), of Feminist AF: A Guide to Crushing Girlhood published by Norton Young Readers and selected as a Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Book of 2021.

Tanner has long admired UVA’s Women’s Center as one of higher education’s premier women’s centers. Spending time across Grounds earlier this spring affirmed her excitement about the opportunity to serve as its director. She was impressed by “the intergenerational dimension of the Center’s support among students, staff, and faculty all across the University. Everywhere you went there were people who had some kind of connection to the Women’s Center. What touched me more than anything was knowing that the Center has such broad support, and that it's a beloved institution within UVA and within Charlottesville.”

As Tanner has begun gaining insights into UVA, she has appreciated that the institution is so upfront about its history. Students she met dove into conversations with her about their school’s troubled history, and she was moved by her visit to the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers. Its distinctive design within its Central Grounds location was a part of the memorial’s impact on her, as was the experience of sitting within the space to which she feels a real connection. She came away with the impression of UVA as a place that is “proud of being Thomas Jefferson's brainchild, but also actively engages with the intricacies of that legacy. I thought the memorial was very well done, and it makes me excited to join a community that embraces complexity and doesn’t shy away from its multifaceted history,” she said.

Tanner spent part of her childhood in Brooklyn, New York and then moved for middle school to Danville, Virginia where her father’s family has long resided. As a daughter of Virginia, she sees her upcoming move and service here as a bit of a homecoming. This connection to her ancestors’ homeland feeds her thinking about partnerships that UVA and our Women’s Center can build in the coming years. 

Tanner’s anticipation for her arrival on Grounds this summer matches that of the team at the Women’s Center and in the Office of the Provost to which the Center reports. “The opportunity to lead such a historic center excites me. I'm looking forward to seeing what I can offer to the Women’s Center, especially as the first woman of color to lead the space, to make sure that we're serving all the students that need us or want to be involved as allies.” Tanner’s intersectional lens will be a valuable asset “to how we do this work, ensuring that more women of color and more first-generation students are seeing women’s centers as places that are for them.”

The University of Virginia Executive Search Group assisted the Women’s Center with this search.