Colette LaBouff appointed as Black Mountain Institute executive director

Beginning June 1, Colette LaBouff will lead the Black Mountain Institute.
Beginning June 1, Colette LaBouff will lead the Black Mountain Institute.
(University of Nevada, Las Vegas )

The Black Mountain Institute has a new executive director.

On Friday, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, announced that Colette LaBouff will take the reins of the international literary center beginning June 1. She will replace John P. Tuman, who has served as interim executive director since March 2021 after Joshua Wolf Shenk departed after a Zoom incident.

“We are so pleased to have Colette take the helm of BMI during this pivotal time in the life of the institute,” said College of Liberal Arts Dean Jennifer Keene in a news release Friday. “She has a breadth of experience from both the artistic and academic worlds and is widely respected in both communities. She is the visionary leader that we need at this time to help shape the future growth of this premier literary institute.”

Hired by UNLV to make it a national literary powerhouse, Shenk’s five-year tenure was marked by a string of complaints over unprofessional behavior.

LaBouff has served as executive director of New Mexico’s Taos Center for the Arts since 2018. Before that, she was the coordinator of events and membership at the Roswell Museum and acting director of the International Center for Writing and Translation at UC Irvine, where she earned an MFA and PhD and has taught poetry, literary journalism and literature.

The author of two prose poetry collections, “Mean” and “Holdings,” LaBouff has also been the curator and poetry editor at Zocalo Public Square in Los Angeles and is a board member of the New Mexico Humanities Council, among other roles past and present.

In the release, LaBouff said she is “thrilled” to be appointed as the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute’s new leader and looks forward to joining the UNLV and Las Vegas communities.


Shenk, the author of ‘Powers of Two,’ resigned as the leader of the Believer magazine and the Black Mountain Institute after a video incident.

“This incredibly unique opportunity is a chance to build partnerships and relationships among writers and scholars — fellows, faculty, and students — and connect to larger communities too,” she said. “I’m excited to listen and consider with others how to elevate voices connected to BMI.”

The appointment comes after a tumultuous year at UNLV, which began in early February 2021 after Shenk, then the executive director of BMI and editor in chief of the Believer magazine, showed his genitals to about a dozen colleagues during a video meeting.

The “Lincoln’s Melancholy” author resigned more than a month later. A subsequent Times investigation found that Shenk was subject to multiple allegations before the nude Zoom incident that ranged from touching and inappropriate comments to creating a toxic work atmosphere.

In October, UNLV announced it will stop producing the Believer magazine in spring 2022, citing a “strategic realignment within the college and BMI as it emerges from the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The magazine’s final issue will be published in March.