LGBTQ+ Center announces staffing changes

Founding Director AJ Mazaris will depart this summer, and Nayasia Coleman will begin work as assistant director


Courtesy of the LGBTQ+ Center

The LGBTQ+ Center will be under completely new leadership in Fall 2022.

Addison Berry, Contributing Writer

The founding director of the LGBTQ+ Center, Dr. AJ Mazaris, is leaving Wake Forest after 11 years of serving in the position.

The announcement follows a year of shakeup in the LGBTQ+ Center. In February, Assistant Director Kayla Lisenby-Denson left the center to become the inclusive practice manager in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. After a long search process, the Center hired Nayasia Coleman, the assistant director of the Center for Community Engagement at High Point University, as the new assistant director. This will be Coleman’s second time working specifically with the LGBTQ+ community at a university, as she was the program coordinator for LGBTQ+ Student Programs at Kennesaw State from 2015 to 2017. Coleman was not available for comment on her new position. 

The LGBTQ+ Center strives to maintain a safe and equitable environment for students, staff and faculty. Established shortly after Mazaris was hired 11 years ago, the Center is a hub for resources, education, leadership programs, services and any other needs related to gender identity and sexual orientation. Mazaris reflected on their time at the center, saying:

“I had the opportunity to build an LGBTQ+ center from the ground up,” Mazaris said. “That has looked like everything from creating spaces for students to receive mentorship, resources and support, to creating opportunities for the entire campus to increase their cultural fluency and understanding of gender and sexuality.”

Prior to the Center’s founding, Wake Forest had no gender-neutral housing, all-gender restrooms or trans-inclusive health insurance plans. There was also no education or professional development for faculty, staff or students related to LGBTQ+ identities and experiences. As both the director of the LGBTQ+ Center and the Assistant Vice President for Equitable Policy in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Mazaris has fought to make these things regularly available and accessible to the Wake Forest community. 

Beginning Aug. 1, Mazaris will take on a new role as the inaugural Vice President for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at Salem Academy and College in Winston-Salem. They say they are excited to be taking this next step in their career but are also sad to be leaving Wake Forest after so many years. 

“Leaving Wake Forest is incredibly bittersweet,” Mazaris said. “Getting to serve as founding director of our LGBTQ+ Center, but more importantly, getting to be a mentor for 11 years — over a decade — for students through their college experience has been one of the greatest personal joys and biggest professional accomplishments and honors of my life and my career.”