Vanessa Avery, Executive Director
For more than 25 years, Vanessa has been a builder of interfaith relations, a pioneer and advocate for workplace religious diversity and inclusion, and a religious studies scholar and educator.
In 2020, Vanessa and her team reconfigured the programs of Sharing Sacred Spaces for the virtual space, building a global audience for the work of interreligious understanding, and diversifying the organization’s funding sources for sustainability and growth. Vanessa had been Director of Programs for the organization prior to 2020, helping to take the fledgling organization from its roots in Chicago to cities across North America.
In 1998, Vanessa launched VAST Consultants, pioneering and advocating strategy, programming, and training content to address religious diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. She worked with companies and institutions willing to run the extra DEI mile to include religious inclusion as a DEI goal, such as the Susan Komen Foundation, The Connecticut Hospital Association, Yale Learning Center, Bryant University, and Eastern Idaho Healthcare Systems.
Vanessa has been regularly recognized for the foresight and innovation that has helped her to see ways of educating and designing interreligious programs to strengthen communities, build safer neighborhoods, and grow grassroots networks that seed peace.
Vanessa is Lecturer in Interfaith Engagement at Yale Divinity School, a Fellow at Hartford International University for Religion and Peace, affiliate faculty at California State University, and author of numerous articles on world religions, interfaith understanding, organizational culture, and religion, (non)violence, and peace.