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. In her role, she works to support and promote university religious and spiritual life broadly conceived, and helps oversee more than 90 student religious groups and 50 religious directors on campus.
Previously, Vanessa worked at Stanford University’s Office for Religious Life, where she helped lead campus programming, and worked very 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.
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, where she received a transformative leadership merit award in 2016. She holds a Certificate in Humanist Studies & Leadership from the Humanist Institute, and is endorsed as a humanist chaplain by the Humanist Society.