Prior to her time at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), Beecher held the role of director of Student Activities and Leadership at Babson College. Before this, Beecher worked at the University of New England through Americorp, helping to provide community service opportunities for students. Each of these previous positions, as well as her bachelor of science degree in psychology from Wheaton College and master’s degree in higher education and student affairs from Boston College, have equipped Beecher for success in her role as MUB director.
Beecher said her background in psychology and community involvement is a big part of why she chose her career and this “functional area” within higher education.
“I found it so beneficial to developing who I am and how I operate. And I want to provide those opportunities for others – for students to figure out who they are, what they’re good at; find their people, figure out how they belong, because we all have things that we’re good at that we care about, and so how can we foster that so that people feel like they belong in the community that they’re in,” she said.
While Beecher always knew she wanted to work in the field of education in some way, she wasn’t exactly sure in what role or capacity she would do this.
In her new position, Beecher’s goals fall into various buckets: supporting clubs and organizations, leadership programming, infusing diversity, equity, inclusion and justice into everything they’re doing and figuring out how to get morale back in place after a tough year. She acknowledged the many difficulties of the past year, and hopes that we will move forward positively.
“It’s been hard, and as we start to return to normal I want us to think about what is the ‘new normal,’ and how are we doing that, better than before, like what’s the good stuff we’re going to hold on to… And then how do we move forward in bigger and better ways for the things that need some work,” she said.
Everyone on campus and in the MUB has been welcoming and patient as Beecher learns her way around this new and unique position, she said.
Beecher is passionate about civic engagement, whether it’s something as simple as voting in an election, or participating in community service through Habitat for Humanity or leading an Alternative Break Challenge trip. In addition to this, Beecher values advocacy work and hopes to bring diversity, equity, inclusion and justice into everything she does in this role.
She was inspired to apply for this position in order to get back into her “functional area,” focusing more specifically on student affairs and student involvement.
“After a competitive search process, Melissa distinguished herself with many years of experience managing a student union and student activities prior to joining UNH,” said Stacey Hall, executive director of student engagement and development at UNH in a press release. “I am excited for Melissa to lead the MUB and Student Activities to better meet the needs of our students and community.”
As MUB director, Beecher will work with assistant directors, MUB employees, leaders across campus, and many others on student activities, development, programming, and more.
“The thing I am most excited about is helping to cultivate a culture where people can find their place… I’m honored and excited to be part of something like that,” she said.
Throughout her time at UNH so far, Beecher’s proudest accomplishments are working on the Rutman Leadership Fellows program and creating Spark, a pre-arrival orientation program for first-year students. In both of these projects, she said she was able to collaborate with many great campus partners to fill needs in the university, and help students grow and adjust to life at UNH.
Beecher lives in Maine with her husband and two step-kids who are thirteen and almost fifteen.
If she could put an ask out to readers, Beecher would like everyone to practice gratitude in their lives. “I would ask that everybody take a minute to think about someone they’re really grateful for…and then just let that person know, because I think sharing that appreciation and that gratitude can be such a small thing but it can make such a difference… I think right now we all need a little grace, we all need a little kindness. And if we can share some gratitude with other people, then I think that will go a long way,” she said.
Photo courtesy of Melissa Beecher.