Jeanelle’s Bio

Jeanelle Austin
Founder | Director | Coach
Racial Agency Initiative

Jeanelle has over fifteen years of experience in facilitating group conversations on race, designing racism and multicultural educational programs, mentoring individuals, and supporting institutional leadership as they think through strategies to take seriously diversity and inclusion integration. She has more than 20 years of public speaking experience, which includes sermons, class lectures, conference panels, workshops, poetry, and dramatic readings. She is a recorded poetry artist.

As a child, Jeanelle grew up bicultural. She was distinctly formed by both her black family, church, and neighborhood and her white, Christian, private schools. At the age of 13, she began traveling internationally. By age 18, she had traveled to Mexico, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, England, Kenya, and the Dominican Republic (in that order). These cross-cultural experiences made her reflect on what it meant to be black in America.

At the start of her college career, Jeanelle thought she was going to major in International Business because of her love for cultures and travel. But her life took a different direction when she felt spiritually prompted to pursue Christian Ministries – Global Studies. At the same time, she was designing race, culture, and diversity programming for students at Messiah College, served on an institutional committee that reviewed and made decisions regarding racism and other justice complaints, and designed a conference that would guide participants through facilitated race conversations.

Jeanelle went on to study and work at Fuller Theological Seminary for nearly 11 years. She initially advocated for herself to be allowed entrance into the MA in Intercultural Studies (MAICS) program on the basis of her work on race. This program was designed for career, cross-cultural ministers, and she was the youngest person entering into the program at age 22. After completing the MAICS, she went on to earn a Master of Divinity (MDiv) in Christian Ethics. Over the course of her time at Fuller, Jeanelle worked in the capacity of Advising Service Coordinator, Academic Advisor, Advising Systems and Communication Manager, Teacher’s Assistant for “Homiletics” (preaching) and “ Theology and Ethics of Martin Luther King Jr.”, and finally as the Director of Operations for the Pannell Center for African American Church Studies. While Director of Operations for the Pannell Center, she hosted and designed important events that intentionally engaged the topic of race, including Fuller’s annual MLK Celebration, a book dialogue around “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Jim Wallis’ Los Angeles book tour stop for “America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America.” Through her work, Jeanelle was able to build creative partnerships and community support that helped Fuller Seminary make progress in its institutional goals to practice racial justice.

Because of her leadership in the area of race relations, Jeanelle was invited as a guest to the following summits and conferences: Episcopal Young Adult Pilgrimage to Ferguson (2015), The Summit: World Change through Faith and Justice (2016), Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering (2016), Episcopal Young Adult Pilgrimage to Ferguson (2019), and Bridge Alliance Member Summit (2019). Jeanelle was also invited to participate on several panels: Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) Workshop Panel (2016), Urban Youth Workers Institute Workshop Panel (2017), Christian Churches Together Plenary Panel (2017), and All Saints Episcopal Church Pasadena Rector’s Forum Panel (2017). In 2018, she was invited by the Pasadena Police Department to serve on a police-community relations committee to help think through strategies to improve community relations. She also received a California Legislature Assembly Certificate of Recognition presented by the office of Assemblymember Chris Holden to acknowledge her work in the community.

Jeanelle holds an MDiv in Christian Ethics and an MA in Intercultural Studies with additional training in sociology.

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