CSH is excited to welcome Dr. Melisa Stevens (formerly Melisa Beeson) as our new Director of Student Retention and Success. Dr. Stevens, ’91 MA ’98, is a Yorktown, IN native and political science alumna and will work with our departments to improve students’ persistence to graduation and support them as they prepare to launch successfully into their careers. Starting in August 2023, Dr. Stevens will lead the newly created CSH Student Success Center in North Quad 160, a hub for student support including mentoring, advising, and career preparation.

The Student Success Center will launch in August 2023. What will it provide to students?

The Student Success Center will be a hub, located in North Quad 160, that serves as a one-stop-shop for student needs. They can come in for support and connection to various on-campus services and programs such as Academic Advising, Career Center, Counseling Center, and more.

We will create a central place that is located near a lot of their classrooms, that combines various campus resources together, along with the work already being done in Compass Advantage, and be a guiding resource for all CSH students to encourage their retention.

What was your experience like at Ball State?

I changed my major four times: elementary education, marketing, advertising, and lastly political science.

And I remember when I changed my major the last time, my parents were both shocked and they were like, ‘what are you going to do with that?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know. But I love it. I’ll figure it out later.’

I think that’s part of why I like this job. Because I remember being that student who wasn’t quite sure what they were going to do with their degree, whose parents were questioning the value, but I was passionate about the content. Through my coursework, internships, part-time jobs, and on-campus leadership roles I was able to figure it out. And now I have this job that helps students and families figure that part out for their own path.

As a student, I was involved in everything. I was chairman of the Homecoming Steering Committee. I was an officer in my sorority. I was the student representative on the University research committee where I got to read faculty grant proposals. I was very busy on campus which helped me develop a lot of transferable skills.

When I graduated I went to the University of Kentucky to earn a Master of Public Administration. Then I returned to Muncie where I got a job at the Alumni Association working with various alumni constituent groups as well as serving as the advisor for the Student Alumni Relations Team. Then I moved over to student affairs and worked in the Career Center. While there I had my first baby—and then started doctoral work at Indiana University for an Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration. So I drove to Indianapolis or Bloomington two nights a week for two years for coursework, kept working at the career center, and had a newborn. After having 2 more children, I finished my dissertation and graduated. It was a long journey that I’m proud of.

What motivated you to accomplish all of that at the same time?

I had a teacher in sixth grade tell me I wasn’t smart. The school labeled me as average and took me out of all of the advanced classes that I had been in with my friends. And I listened to that teacher throughout middle and high school, believing I wasn’t smart. And it wasn’t until I came to Ball State and a political science professor, Dr. Ralph Baker, called me aside after class and he said, ‘Melisa, you’re a great writer. You’re really smart and the things you are contributing in class are really bright.’ And all of a sudden I felt seen and heard and valued. And I decided that I didn’t want to give up on any more opportunities. So, I kept pushing because part of me wanted to be able to go back to that teacher and say, ‘Look here, you can call me Dr. Ellis now.’

And that is what I am bringing to this job. I want students to know that they’ve got somebody to go to who is going to listen to them and help them. In this role, I’m going to help them take whatever it is that makes them who they are and their passion for their subject matter and navigate that toward an initial career path. That may take them to a variety of different places over the course of their career. I haven’t always been in higher education, I have worked nonprofit sector and, corporate America. And I want to help our students understand how they can work in different sectors, and show them that they can navigate and be fluid throughout their careers. Because there are so many different ways you can use a major in biology, political science, English, history, or sociology.

Students don’t often see that transferability, especially if their parents weren’t liberal arts majors. My dad was an accounting major who worked in the newspaper industry and my mom was a nurse. Those are very concrete majors. So, if you don’t have a family at home who can help you navigate that sort of thing, that’s what we need to be doing here is helping those students. Together with the faculty and other terrific campus resources, we can help find ways for students to channel their majors and their passions into fulfilling careers.

Click here to reach out to Dr. Stevens with questions or a welcome message.