As a health educator at the University of Rochester, Melissa Kelley was primarily responsible for teaching classes and organizing student workshops on drugs, alcohol and other topics.
But with a background in sexual health and women’s health, Kelley soon found herself, with the blessing of school administrators, acting as a key advocate for students who may have been sexually assaulted.
With programs she helped create, including “Stop, Ask, Clarify,” Kelley became a friend, confidant and support system for students trying to navigate a complex issue such as sexual assault.
Last month, Kelley brought her passion and expertise to Union, where she is the College’s first full-time Title IX coordinator. Previously, the duties were handled by Gretchel Hathaway, Union’s chief diversity officer.
Reporting to Robert Kelly, chief of staff, Kelley will work to ensure the College is in compliance with Title IX, the landmark 1972 federal law that prohibits sex- or gender-based discrimination at institutions of higher education.
This includes sexual misconduct, and in her role, Kelley will help coordinate new programs and initiatives to prevent sexual assault and harassment.
She will also make sure Union complies with the Violence Against Women Act and the Clery Act, among other responsibilities.
With an office on the fourth floor of Reamer Campus Center, Kelley joins Union at a time when the College has taken a series of steps aimed at preventing sexual assault. In fall 2014, Union joined with nearly 200 colleges and universities to participate in a national public service campaign, “It’s On Us.”
The College also teamed up with New York state officials in raising awareness of – and doing its part to take a stand against and prevent – sexual assault and domestic violence.
And last fall, a student-led Committee on Consent Education and Awareness hosted its second Sexual Assault Awareness Week with a series of events across campus.
“Sexual and relationship violence is preventable, and my hope is that the students on campus will join me in educating each other about the expectations of our community,” Kelley said. “I also hope they will encourage one another to come forward about such violence so that those affected will get the help and support they need. No matter when such violence has occurred, I am here to support and listen.”
Personal: Kelley and her husband, Ryan, are the parents of eight-year-old Jack and two-year-old triplets, Molly, Madeline and McKenna.
Education: B.S. in Health Science with a concentration in Community Health Education from SUNY Cortland, MS in Human Service Administration from St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y., and EdD in Human Development from the University of Rochester. Her dissertation work was on Panhellenic sorority women's perceptions and reported experiences of hooking up on campus.
Before Union: Kelley began her career as a sexual health educator at Planned Parenthood and most recently was the health educator and sexual violence advocate at the University of Rochester. In addition to her professional roles, she holds a member- at-large position in the American College Health Association's Health Promotion Section and recently stepped down from a three-year presidential term with the New York State College Health Association. She’s an active member of both ACHA and NYSCHA and looks forward to joining other professional networks in this new role.
Hobbies: Shopping, exploring new restaurants, camping, spending time with family. “I like immersing myself in my community and will continue to be a leader in Delta Gamma. I currently advise the collegiate chapter at the University of Rochester and will be looking to re-establish an alumnae chapter here in the Capital District.”
Last book read: “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age” by Sherry Turkle.
Why Union: “From the moment I set foot on campus it felt like the right place to be. I was already familiar with Union having grown up here. After meeting with staff and students, Union felt like home. I feel like I can do some great things here in tandem with students, and I am very much looking forward to getting know the campus.”