Sherisse Laud-Hammond, a former administrator at Temple University, will be the next director of the Penn Women's Center, the University announced Jan. 11. She will officially take on the position Jan. 16.
Laud-Hammond aims to promote inclusivity in her new role, adding that "a lot of people come to universities and they feel lost, and I'd love for the Women's Center to be a place someone can call a safe haven."
She said her goals also include continuing the "tremendous legacy" of the Center, working with "the great team" already in place, and creating a space where a person's identity is accepted instead of questioned.
The appointment comes more than four months after longtime Women's Center director Felicity "Litty" Paxton announced she was leaving her role to become the associate dean for undergraduate studies at Penn's Annenberg School for Communication. Laud-Hammond will replace current interim director Jessica Mertz, who is also the director of Penn Violence Prevention.
Laud-Hammond is a 2005 School of Social Policy and Practice graduate and a former associate director of Admissions in SP2, where she said she developed lasting relationships with her peers.
"I still keep in contact with a lot of my classmates; we go to the beach together and we teach each other's classes," Laud-Hammond said. "Another great thing I remember is my professor Gloria Gay, a former associate director of the Women's Center, who introduced me to the Center."
When Laud-Hammond attended SP2, she moved back in with her mother and commuted 45 minutes to school from Cheltenham, Pa. Whenever Laud-Hammond needed a place to relax and unwind while on campus, Gay created a space at the Women's Center where she could be herself.
"I would love for more students to feel that the Women's Center is a place where they can feel at home, where they can drop in for no reason at all, just to be there," Laud-Hammond said.
After graduation, she spent five years at Penn recruiting and advising students in the Master of Social Work program. She was most recently the director of Temple's Office of Advising and Professional Development for the program.
“[Laud-Hammond] impressed students, staff, and faculty with her deep knowledge of Penn," Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum wrote in the press release. "We especially appreciate her commitment to positioning the PWC as a celebratory and welcoming hub dedicated to gender equity and inclusivity.”
Connecting her earlier time at Penn with her new job of leading the Women's Center, Laud-Hammond stressed the desire to create a welcoming environment.
"SP2 helped me find myself and find my voice, and that's what I want for students, faculty, and staff at Penn," Laud-Hammond said.