When Melanie Neuilly landed a WSU seed grant that would fund a summer of research in Nice, France, she dreamed of an enriching research experience by day and romantic dinners on café terraces and strolls on Mediterranean beaches by night.

Melanie Neuilly
Melanie Neuilly

Those dreams were altered when Neuilly gave birth to her daughter Grace just before she was scheduled to head to the French Riviera, but she was determined to see them through. Once she and her young family arrived in France and Neuilly began her research project, reality set in.

“She was the most perfect baby there ever was, and by the time we were at the research site, she was undoubtedly going to be sleeping through the night and indiscriminately taking the bottle,” Neuilly says. “Then she 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.