Introducing GLSEN's New Executive Director
About Melanie Willingham-Jaggers (they/she)
"GLSEN’s legacy and our power comes from our work to kindle that spark in LGBTQ+ young people, and ignite the strength and passion of youth activists."
- Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, Executive Director
Melanie Willingham-Jaggers (They/She), is the newly appointed Executive Director at GLSEN, a national non-profit that works to ensure K-12 education is safe and affirming for all students, including LGBTQ+ youth. Their vision for the next chapter of GLSENs work is rooted in the belief that education can and should be an experience that is safe, affirming and liberating – and that we can achieve that goal only when we build in racial, gender and disability justice into our education system as a key indicator of success.
Before joining GLSEN in 2019 as Deputy Executive Director, Melanie served as the Program Associate Director of The Worker Institute at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. As a part of the leadership team there, Melanie worked to ensure the strategic, programmatic, and operational excellence of the Institute.
She brings extensive experience in social justice movement and organizations as a manager and consultant with her, including curriculum design, facilitation, organizing within and beyond various marginalized and intersecting communities, including current and formerly incarcerated and underground economy involved people, LGBTQ+ community, youth, immigrants, people with disabilities and senior citizens. Melanie has a long track record of building and running successful high-impact programming, training, and developing individuals and leading teams, as well as designing effective and values responsive infrastructure that drive high levels of performance and impact across the organization. At the core of their success is a relentless passion for innovation and continuous improvement, as well as a personal commitment to lifelong learning, building authentic relationships, and community engagement.
Since 2018, Melanie has lectured at CUNY’s School of Professional Studies, in the Masters of Applied Theater program.
They earned their B.A. in Politics, Peace and Justice Studies and Philosophy from the University of San Francisco, and their M.A. from The City University of New York’s School of Professional Studies in Applied Theater, where they lectured as an adjunct, from 2018 to 2021.
From 2016-2019 Melanie served as board chair of The Audre Lorde Project, the oldest center for community organizing for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Trans and Gender Non-Conforming People of Color, in the New York City area. Melanie’s work on the ALP Board was rooted in the belief that as long as there are organizations connected to our freedom movements – those organizations must be internally safe, healthy and vibrant spaces, on which movements can rely if they so choose.
A Message from the Board of Directors
A true leader for their community, Melanie always looks first to the grassroots leadership of the LGBTQ+ youth of color, trans youth and youth with disabilities who are on the frontlines, and centers their experiences and needs in all GLSEN’s work. Melanie is exactly the leader our movement needs to bring our fight for LGBTQ+ justice to the next level as GLSEN’s Executive Director.
- Rocío Inclán, GLSEN Board of Directors Chair
Stories of Support
- NBC News: National LGBTQ group GLSEN appoints first Black, nonbinary executive director
- Dallas Voice: GLSEN names Willingham-Jaggers new executive director
- AOL: National LGBTQ group GLSEN appoints first Black, nonbinary executive director
- Yahoo! News: National LGBTQ GLSEN appoints first Black, nonbinary executive director
- Diversity, Inc.: People on the Move: Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, New Executive Director of LGBTQ Advocacy Group GLSEN
- The Advocate: GLSEN Names First, Black, First Nonbinary Executive Director
- The Grio: Melanie Willingham-Jaggers appointed first Black, non-binary executive director of LGBTQ group GLSEN
- Black Enterprise: GLSEN Appoints First Black, Nonbinary Executive Director
- Los Angeles Blade: GLSEN names first Black, nonbinary executive director
- Metro Weekly: GLSEN names its first-ever Black, nonbinary executive director
- GAYTIMES: Melanie Willingham-Jaggers becomes the first Black, non-binary executive director of GLSEN
- LGBTQ+ Nation: GLSEN appoints their first Black non-binary executive director to defend LGBTQ youth.
- LogoTV: Shamir, Dua Saleh, and More on Their Black LGBTQ+ Joy