Gena Flynn, the new director of NIU’s Center for Black Studies, brings 16 years of higher education leadership experience to her new job directing the center’s efforts to promote excellence and engagement in teaching, learning, scholarship, artistry, outreach and service.
Flynn, who will assume her new role July 1, has spent most of her career developing initiatives to promote diversity, equity and inclusion.
She began at the University of Michigan, where she worked in the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives, first as a program assistant, then as a director and consultant. There she coordinated symposia, promoted diversity education and directed the Pathways to Student Success and Excellence program.
From 2007 until 2014, she worked at Columbia College Chicago, where she helped lead the Conaway Achievement Project, directing programs and initiatives designed to assist underrepresented students. In that role she collaborated with college advising, counseling services, the dean of students and academic units on campus to facilitate student success.
More recently, she led the office of Academic Support at North Central College in Naperville. For the past year, she helped lead a strategic planning process at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, developing programs and processes to promote diversity and inclusion.
“We are delighted to have her as part of the NIU community,” said NIU Chief Diversity Officer Vernese Edghill-Walden, senior associate vice president for Academic Diversity. “She brings with her a tremendous understanding of our students and their needs. She has demonstrated an ability to connect with students, and understands the value of such interactions to the Center for Black Studies. I believe she will engage nationally recognized organizations like the Association of Black Cultural Centers to strengthen the center and take it to new heights.”
Flynn said she is eager to work with staff at the Center for Black Studies to maintain its role as a place where students, staff, faculty and community members can engage in a culturally conscious manner. She also is eager to expand its offerings.
“As the director, the ability to develop new initiatives, is exciting. I look forward to building relationships across campus that support student success and faculty scholarship. There are many issues affecting the Black diaspora that deserve attention, and there is no better space to explore, study and dialogue than at the center.”
LaVerne Gyant, the outgoing director of the center, said she looks forward to welcoming Flynn to campus.
“This is a great opportunity for the center to move forward and continue its growth,” Gyant said. “It’s a new era, new opportunities, new successes, a new journey – and I know that Dr. Flynn will lead the way.”
Flynn holds a bachelor’s degree in African American Studies and Political Science from DePaul University; a master’s in political science (with a focus on black politics/law and politics/public opinion) from the University of Michigan; and an Ed.D. from Vanderbilt University in Higher Education, Leadership, and Policy.
Established in 1971, the center works to support student success. It also conducts research on the experiences of people of African descent and offers a minor in black studies. It also promotes the retention of black students and sponsors lectures, workshops, conferences and other student-oriented activities.