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Inspire Leadership: Melissa Brown

by Kiera Przygoda

Melissa Brown, director of Student Life Assessment and Strategic Initiatives

Melissa Brown, director of assessment and strategic initiatives for Student Life, shows immense passion about making a positive impact on the lives of students on campus. She began her journey at the university in September 2017, working for Student Life when she was selected to lead a brand-new office. Brown’s road to leadership has been complex but a great inspiration to keep working towards your goals.

Melissa Brown received her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Louisiana Tech University. Brown worked as an elementary school teacher, stating “I wanted to change and impact students’ lives, so I became a teacher.” After teaching for a decade, Brown began working at a university focusing on teacher programming and the accreditation of that process. She began her Ph.D. studies in 2010, but due to family needs had to put her Ph.D. on hold on two different occasions but held out until she heard the words “Dr. Melissa Brown” after defending her dissertation. In May of 2019, she received her well-deserved Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Arlington in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.

Brown joined the Volunteer Family in 2017 when the Office of Assessment and Strategic Initiatives was created, and she was hired as a director. Within her given role, she trains Student Life staff and students on how to conduct assessment, guides departments and the division in strategic planning activities, , and has streamlined the annual reporting process. Working within Student Life, Melissa Brown works with the departments in the division to provide evidence that they are following professional standards of practice and making continuous improvements to the UTK student experience. She also helps the offices within Student Life identify goals and provides them with ways to measure their success towards those goals.

In addition to her everyday job duties, Brown is a member of the following professional organizations:

She was also selected to participate in the inaugural fall 2019 cohort of the University of Tennessee Inclusive Leadership Academy (UTILA) along with 20 others from the UTK campus. She explains, “The purpose of UTILA is to equip leaders with the content knowledge, leadership behaviors, and support to effectively lead our diverse workforce and create a culture of inclusion.”

Melissa Brown has been published twice and is currently working on her third publication. Check out her publications below!

When asked about inspiring leadership, Brown stated “run towards the intimidating, if someone else has done it, why can’t you and why shouldn’t you?” She believes in sharing knowledge with “best practice and intentionality, knowing that you are human and could fail, but that it is okay,” that is what Melissa Brown admires about great leaders. She closed out with stating “For me as a leader in education, it all comes back to why I decided this career path and that was to impact and to change students’ lives.”

Her passion for growth and change in students’ lives is why the university is lucky to have Melissa Brown serving our community. Her drive for assessment and strategic planning on campus keeps us moving forward with the new and creative ideas that she brings to the table.


Kiera Przygoda is a senior at UT majoring in communication studies. She is the undergraduate public relations intern for the Office of Communication and Marketing. She has a passion for writing and media and a love for Disney. Kiera is also a student assistant at SEC Network and VFL Films.

Division of Student Life