2009 Outstanding Faculty Staff Award
Melissa E. Exum, Ph.D
As associate vice chancellor of student affairs and dean of students, Dr. Melissa Exum helps integrate all students into full membership in the UNC community. With kindness, with tough love when necessary, and with an unshakeable belief in each young person’s potential, she encourages each of them to strive for their very best.
Part of her job is to uphold UNC’s values, expectations and standards, and another part is to educate students about what those ideals mean. If a student’s behavior runs counter to the values of the University, she uses that teachable moment to respond with educational and corrective actions.
Melissa’s work encompasses the whole spectrum of student life, including the Carolina Union, New Student and Carolina Parent Programs, the Campus Y, LGBTQCenter and Disability Services. She assists the University in upholding its ideals of academic integrity by educating members of the UNC community about the honor system and by overseeing the system’s operation. She teaches leadership skills to students, speaks to numerous student organizations, and helps design programs to address campus issues such as harassment and assault prevention, alcohol education, health promotion and diversity awareness.
Originally from Warrenton, Melissa earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from WakeForestUniversity, a master’s degree in medical sociology from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, and a doctorate in higher education from OhioUniversity. At both the universities where she did graduate work, she acquired extensive experience in student affairs, and she also has worked in private industry and state government in evaluation research and budget planning. She joined UNC’s Division of Student Affairs in 1998.
Her work on behalf of Carolina students prompts her to reach out to the surrounding communities to make sure students are taken care of when they are not on campus. She advises parents on helping their children adjust to student life, and she works with University staff when problems arise that involve students.
In all she does, Melissa demonstrates the empathy, integrity and generous spirit that make her an inspiration to students, parents and colleagues alike. Her position exposes her to both the best and the worst of student life, and it requires her to spend numerous hours outside of the workplace assisting students in need. In every situation she faces, she displays calm, grace, good sense and deep compassion.
As she mentors Carolina students, she instills in them the belief that she herself lives by: that leadership has nothing to do with you, but everything to do with the people who may follow you. Melissa is an outstanding campus leader who shows students by example what it means to live the ideals of excellence and commitment that are the Carolina Way.