Stanford welcomes new staff to the Farm

Over the summer, Brenda McComb joined Stanford as interim associate vice provost and dean of students. She is among several new staff members serving students and the Stanford community.

With a new academic year beginning, Stanford’s eye remains focused on finding ways to improve and better serve students. To that end, Stanford recently welcomed several new staff to fill positions that serve students and the campus community in various capacities. Among them is Brenda McComb , who joined the university as interim associate vice provost and dean of students.

Apart from McComb, the other new staff appointments - including one alum - will oversee efforts to address issues related to sexual assault, student mental health and well-being, and conflict resolution. Each brings a wealth of experience in their fields, in serving educational or research institutions, and in working with students.

McComb comes to Stanford from Oregon State University, where she held several positions, including dean of the Graduate School and senior vice provost for academic affairs. She has been recognized as both a faculty member and dean for her support of student success, as well as her leadership in advancing equity and inclusion, an issue that holds personal meaning for her. She previously held positions at the University of Massachusetts and the University of Kentucky.

Brenda McComb recently joined Stanford as interim associate vice provost and dean of students. (Image credit: Susan Simoni Burk)

For much of her life, McComb said she felt that the sex she was assigned at birth did not align with her gender identity. She said that due to societal pressures that reinforce binary gender identities, she coped with depression and eventually sought help from a therapist. While working at the University of Massachusetts, she formally came out as a woman to her colleagues, began her medical transition and changed her name to Brenda. Following her transition, McComb continued her career in academia and eventually relocated to Oregon State University, where she had worked before UMass. At OSU, she taught several courses, including a Queer Studies course on transgender lives, was an advocate for trans students and staff, and helped create the first trans support group in the city of Corvallis, Oregon.

McComb, who was a first-generation college student, holds a bachelor’s degree in natural resources conservation, a master’s degree in wildlife management and a doctorate in forestry from Louisiana State University. Her appointment at Stanford began in August and will continue through June of next year. She replaces Chris Griffith, who retired from Stanford on Aug. 31 after nearly 38 years on the Farm.

Also new to Stanford is Jill Thomas, who is serving as the Title IX coordinator and director of equity investigations. In her new role, Thomas will oversee the Title IX Office , which collaborates with the Stanford community to stop, prevent and remedy interpersonal violence and gender-based discrimination.

Thomas comes to Stanford after serving as a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento for more than 11 years. She also has more than 20 years’ experience as a JAG attorney for the U.S. Air Force, which included working as a prosecutor, defense attorney and judge. Thomas holds a bachelor’s degree from Carthage College and a JD from Stetson University. She joined Stanford on Aug. 27.

Bina Patel is the new director of Counseling and Psychological Services, or CAPS, the university’s counseling center dedicated to student mental health and well-being. Patel previously served as assistant director of clinical services for the department since 2016, providing senior-level support and consultation to offices across campus.

Before coming to Stanford, Patel was a psychiatrist at MIT Medical, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as a clinical instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She holds an MD from Indiana University.

In a position that serves the entire campus community, Brenda Berlin joined Stanford on Sept. 4 as the new ombudsperson. In her capacity, she will oversee the Office of The Ombuds , which is a neutral, confidential and informal channel for resolving conflicts within the university. Any student, postdoc, staff, faculty or other member of the Stanford community can seek the advice of the office.

Berlin came to Stanford from the Duke University School of Law, where she was on the clinical law faculty. She was the co-founder and supervising attorney of the Children’s Law Clinic and also launched and chaired the school’s Public Interest & Public Service Certificate program. Prior to joining Duke Law, she worked as a senior trial attorney at the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Duke University and a JD from Stanford Law School.

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