Dr. Melissa Kennedy of Niles has been named Southwestern Michigan College School of Nursing and Health Services Dean, succeeding Rebecca Jellison, who retired after serving since 2012.
Kennedy, a 2008 SMC graduate, joined the faculty in 2011 as a part-time instructor, became fulltime in 2015 and taught medical-surgical and pharmacology classes. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Bethel University and her Doctor of Nursing Practice from Colorado’s American Sentinel University.
“Dr. Kennedy was chosen from a group of three outstanding current SMC faculty with the School of Nursing and Health Services,” Vice President of Instruction Dr. David Fleming said. “Dr. Kennedy’s vision of unifying and growing both the nursing and health services side of the school should prove valuable to the college.”
When she started as a Lakeland Health cardiac nurse, “I had no desire to teach,” Kennedy said. “I thought I was content being a floor nurse, working 12-hour shifts three days a week. Once I started teaching, I wasn’t happy being a floor nurse anymore. I wanted to be a nurse as a girl, but also considered teaching high school English and literature, but decided against that.”
“In our nursing program you become a family of 40 the day you walk in the door. Crying, laughing, you experience everything together. You see people born, you see people die. It definitely takes a special person.”
SMC is starting its second semester in the $9.6-million expansion opened last January that more than doubled the Nursing and Health Education Building while adding interactive manikins to replicate clinical settings.
“It’s been very exciting for students,” Kennedy said. The broad commons “is nice because all four semesters are arrayed. Lower classmen are able to reach out more to upper classmen and are more likely to connect. They’ve been amazed to learn with the new technology. We’ve got so many resources we didn’t have before, including a lab where multiple students can practice skills at once. Our office hallway encourages collaboration, too. We’re all together, which is great for camaraderie. Seeing students excited about the new building energizes the faculty.”
Dr. Kennedy’s first step will be developing a strategic plan spanning nursing and health services.
“I know it sounds cliché, but this is home,” she said. “I was the first person in my family to earn a college degree. Now, all four of us siblings have bachelor’s degrees or higher. Without SMC, I couldn’t have afforded to go to college. I owe everything I am as a nurse and educator to opportunities SMC gave me.”
Kennedy was born here and graduated in 1995 from Niles Senior High School, but grew up in Dallas. The second of four, “My big sister followed in my footsteps as a nurse,” she said. “My younger sister graduated with her business degree here through Bethel and does project management for Notre Dame’s library. My brother moved back to Texas and, believe it or not, teaches English.”
She and her husband, Jim, have been married for 18 years and have three children. Her 17-year-old and 16-year-old sons will be dual-enrolled at SMC this fall. The oldest wants to be an electrician and also studies welding. Her daughter, 14, is a cheerleader. The children attend Edwardsburg Schools.