Jessica A. Mertz has been named Director of Student Sexual Violence Prevention and Education at the University of Pennsylvania. Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum, Vice Provost for University Life, made the announcement.
The new, campus-wide Director of Student Sexual Violence Prevention and Education position was created as a result of the Commission on Student Safety, Alcohol and Campus Life.
In its final report issued in February 2014, Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Vincent Price accepted the Commission’s recommendation to create a position to enhance existing efforts to prevent sexual violence and educate the Penn community on its rights, responsibilities and resources. The Director will focus on preventing and educating students about sexual violence, dating/domestic violence and stalking.
Since 2010, Mertz has served as the Associate Director of the Penn Women’s Center and chaired the University-wide Penn Violence Prevention Committee. She serves on campus Title IX and sexual harassment working groups and also on Philadelphia’s Sexual Assault Advisory Council.
“I am very pleased that Jessica Mertz will expand her portfolio at Penn,” McCoullum said. “She brings a wealth of experience to this position and is known across campus as a thoughtful and effective collaborator with students, staff and faculty.”
“I am excited to remain engaged in the work I feel so passionate about, interpersonal violence prevention,” Mertz added. “I am proud of the work we have done so far to ensure Penn is a safe and compassionate campus, and I look forward to continue working with students to support and empower them around these issues.”
At the Women’s Center, Mertz has provided crisis counseling, referrals and support services to students, staff and faculty. She designed and facilitated trainings and workshops on sexual violence, sexual harassment, dating violence and stalking. Mertz developed, with Counseling and Psychological Services, a support group for student survivors of sexual violence. She also advised students involved in groups such as Abuse & Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP), One in Four and the Vagina Monologues.
Mertz began her career at Penn in 2009 as the Violence Prevention Educator at the Penn Women’s Center charged with managing a three-year Department of Justice Violence Against Women Act grant.
Previously, Mertz worked as a domestic violence project coordinator and outreach worker at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, as a domestic violence counselor at Women in Transition and as a Victim Advocate for the Victim Services Center of Montgomery County, Pa. She earned a B.A. in English at St. Joseph’s University and master’s in women’s and gender studies at Rutgers.
Mertz will report to Hikaru Kozuma, Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs. She begins her new position in mid-September.