Passion for service leads to faculty development role

Melanie NeuillyAssociate Professor Melanie Neuilly knows a thing or two about managing personal and professional challenges.

When she landed a WSU seed grant that would fund a summer of research in Nice, France, she dreamed of an enriching research experience by day, romantic dinners on café terraces, and strolls on Mediterranean beaches by night. But once she began her research project, reality set in.

Her daughter Grace had been born not long before the young family headed to the French Riviera. “She was the most perfect baby there ever was,” Neuilly says. “By the time we were [going to be] at the research site, she was undoubtedly going to be sleeping through the night and indiscriminately taking the bottle,” she thought. “Then Grace decided she was not going to take the bottle at all, and she was screaming from the moment I left the door until I came back, and she wasn’t sleeping through the night. It was hell.”

The challenges Neuilly faced in Nice reinforced her passion for service at WSU. She became an advocate for women in higher education, and even edited a book, “Mothering from the Field: The Impact of Motherhood on Site-Based Research,” based on her experience in France, and published by Rutgers University Press in June 2019.

“A week in, my husband was hitting the wall and we needed to do something,” Neuilly explains. “A friend told me, ‘You need to take pictures of the good times.’ So, I told my husband we are going to meet at the beach every evening, and you can go shopping, and we can enjoy the food and the shops here. And when I came back, I had a bunch of idyllic pictures of summer in Nice.”

She also had even more inspiration to seek solutions for working mothers. In her eight years at WSU, Neuilly has chaired both the Commission on the Status of Women and the Task Force for Paid Parental Leave. She’s also served on the Salary Equity Task Force, among others.

Now she’s stepped into a central leadership role as the interim associate vice provost for faculty development. Her duties include training and development activities for department chairs and directors, New Faculty Orientation and the new faculty seminar series, the Provost’s Leadership Academy, and faculty professional development activities. Neuilly also serves as the liaison to WSU’s ADVANCE program and is involved with collaborative partnerships with faculty groups dedicated to faculty development and improvement of faculty life.

She will continue her role as associate professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, where her research focuses on the decision-making processes of coroners and medical examiners.

“As a social scientist, I’m interested in how we know what we know, and how did we get to where we are,” Neuilly says. “As a faculty member I’ve realized there are some issues and so through my service I’m interested in why those issues exist and how do we fix those issues? What are some best practices to help faculty deal with whatever impediments might be in the way of their professional development?”

More information regarding faculty professional development opportunities is available on the Office of the Provost website.

Top image: Melanie Neuilly (WSU Photo Services)

By Todd Mordhorst, Office of the Provost