The Mesnards prepare for new adventures

Part 2 of 2: Michelle Mensard’s new position to help Union advance

Photo caption: Michelle’s passion for planning and strategy is sure to be a great addition to Union’s administration team

Emy Wood

She’s a professor, the Humanities division chair, faculty senate chair and is a strong force behind Union College’s calling program. If that doesn’t sound hectic enough, she’s also currently in the middle of a job transition. Meet Michelle Mesnard, our (almost) new assistant vice president for Academic Initiatives.

But, she isn’t transitioning just yet. With a couple weeks left in the school year, her office will stay occupied until June 1. And, In case you missed it, she isn’t the only one changing job titles. Her husband Mike Mennard was interviewed last week about his transition into being a full-time musician.

Like Mennard, Mesnard first came to Union 13 years ago after teaching at Pacific Union College. “We were even getting ready to apply at Disney,” she said. “But then, Union called.”

Initially, she thought it would just be a good opportunity to practice her job interview skills and visit Nebraska. But then, she ended up loving it. “It seemed like the right fit,” she exclaimed.

Ultimately, working at Union provided her with the opportunities to bring together both theory and practical experience in the classroom to help students see and understand how their coursework connects to future careers. “I wanted my students to walk out the door and leave graduation confident,” she said. “Confident that they have actually worked with clients, understand the processes and show off a portfolio to prove it.”

But, teaching wasn’t always easy. “I came into it with the perceptions of what I experienced in college, which was mostly lectures” she said. “Finding my voice was challenging, but once I explored other approaches I found what helped my students excel.”

Now her teaching style is focused discussions with a heavy emphasis on projects. This, she said, helps students work through problems where she’s able to help guide them through. “I can teach the processes and theories to apply them, but we have to rework them into new modes of communication,” she said. “It’s important to realize that there’s a need to be a lifelong learner.”

“I think, too, that I bring my love of problem and opportunity solving,” Mesnard confessed. “I get to do that in all of my roles, and now I think that’s what draws me into the next step. It’s more focused on problem and opportunity solving.”

Her next step is transitioning into the assistant vice president for Academic Initiatives role beginning on June 1. In this position Mesnard will be working closely with Malcolm Russell, vice president for Academic Administration, to research and develop new programs for Union.

“We will be coordinating with others both on and off campus to bring the pieces together to have the right personnel, curriculum and space needed to roll out new programs,” she said. “Essentially, we will go from ideas to inception. But, this may take some time.”

In addition to helping Union expand on the front lines of academics, she’ll be assisting Russell in areas of faculty and technology development. “I see opportunities for innovation in evaluating and thinking outside our normal confines, problem solving and being able to assist Union in achieving new goals by dreaming for a new future,” she exclaimed.

The good news is, we won’t be losing both Mesnard’s. The bad news is, well, there is no bad news. These changes imply new directions and shifting perspectives to help keep Union ahead. What new programs will be added to our campus? I guess you’ll have to keep your eyes open.

Emy is a sophomore studying communication.