Dr. Melinda Treadwell, 2021 Outstanding Women in Business recipient
Dr. Melinda Treadwell is the President of Keene State College
Growing up in Central Maine, Dr. Melinda Treadwell was the first in her family and among the few in her graduating class to go to college.
She chose Keene State College, graduating in 1990 with a major in industrial safety and a minor in chemistry. Treadwell went on to earn a Ph.D. in pharmacology and toxicology from Dartmouth Medical School and work as a corporate toxicologist for Lockheed Martin and as an environmental policy expert.
In 2012, she shifted to a career in academics, serving as Keene State’s interim provost and then vice president of academic affairs and provost and CEO of Antioch University New England.
In 2017, Dr. Treadwell returned to Keene State College as interim president and thereafter was named president.
Dr. Treadwell has approached the pandemic by applying methodical processes and precautions to limit viral spread among students and by extension the community, including weekly testing of students and staff, which she extended to the City of Keene’s staff.
Her actions have allowed more than 25,000 students in the University System of New Hampshire to return to in-person learning on campus and have some sense of normalcy during a pivotal time in their development.
How did your background prepare you for taking the lead on the University System’s Covid response plan?
This was an outstanding demonstration of team effort. Chief Paul Dean (UNH co-lead) and I had the joy of working with talented leaders, scientists, legal advisors, emergency and public health professionals from across our university system and state. I am proud of the work of our committee accomplished and the effort of literally hundreds of individuals across the system to bring our risk mitigation plans to life.
I imagine that my policy and emergency preparedness experience helped me to hold steady, recognizing that there were no zero-risk options. Our responsibility was to quantify and mitigate the known risks. We structured plans always focused on preserving the health and well-being of our campus communities and the citizens of the cities and towns we share.
My style is to listen, adapt and facilitate others bringing energy and ideas. We collaborated openly, challenged one another, and developed consistent commitments to one another and to our communities. Our Board of Trustees consulted with the team, asked challenging questions and supported campus leaders throughout the process. Honestly, one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my career.
Why are community relationships important for colleges, and what has prompted your success in building this greater system around Keene State?
As the president of a public institution of higher education, I believe our core mission is to support the needs of the community we share — that we are “stewards of place.” I also believe that colleges and universities can accomplish much more by listening to business leaders, municipal leaders and not for profit partners to meet the needs of the future workforce and community. We can leverage one another, co-create opportunities and programs, and share resources to create better opportunities at lower cost.
I also have been excited to be engaged with our partners in the K-12 schools and our Community College System, creating new pathways that accelerate study and help students move more easily into the workforce with post-secondary credentials.
What advice do you have for young women just starting their careers?
Believe in yourself, listen to others, form relationships and ask for advice from individuals around you that you respect and admire. As you progress in your career, always believe that you are an essential force in your organization. Women build community very effectively, and we see problems differently than our male colleagues. Together we can solve the most complex issues of our day and make profound change for tomorrow. Also, if you don’t feel joy in your work, take a risk and make a change. Those moments of reflection and change are profoundly important.