Staff Profile: Melanie Barnes, Assistant to the Chair, Department of Sociology
At the time, Melanie worked in VCU Business Services in a financial support role. She liked the work but she had a secret longing to switch to the academic side of VCU. Though Melanie studied business administration in college at Texas A&M, she always wanted to teach, and envisioned a life surrounded by children and students.
On the trip to Houston, Melanie was assigned a roommate, Daphne Rankin, Ph.D., former associate vice provost of strategic enrollment management. At the time, Daphne taught in the Department of Sociology as an instructor. “Daphne is wonderful with the students and they truly respect her. She encouraged me to grow closer to the students, to fill that emptiness I had in my success.” says Melanie. “I always knew the academic side of VCU was where I wanted to be. It took me years to find something, but I lucked out with the Department of Sociology.” In July of 2018, Melanie joined the department as the assistant to the chair.
As the assistant to the chair, Melanie often serves as a jack-of-all-trades. On any given day, you might find Melanie assisting faculty and students with event planning, working on Blackboard, processing financial records, assisting the department’s advisor, supporting TAs, proctoring exams or helping the sociology club. Every day is different, and Melanie credits her organization skills for her success. “My strongest suit is organization. In my role, you need to be on top of the next thing, whatever that is. The COVID-19 crisis is very disconcerting and we don’t know what’s coming, but I try to anticipate best what we can. I really use my skills to deal with adversity and maintain balance in the department.”
"In my role, you need to be on top of the next thing, whatever that is. The COVID-19 crisis is very disconcerting and we don’t know what’s coming, but I try to anticipate best what we can. I really use my skills to deal with adversity and maintain balance in the department."
Melanie is also surrounded by students, and those interactions are what she considers the best part of job. “The students are great kids. They are very sweet. All are very engaging and respectful, which is really a testament to the department,” says Melanie. “In some ways, this role has fulfilled some of those dreams I had of teaching.”
Since the pandemic, Melanie has been working from home, trying her best to support her department. What many people may not know is that her husband has been on the frontlines of the response. He currently works as a respiratory therapist in a large hospital. “I am trying to keep a routine going and stay positive but it can be a little bit of a challenge,” Melanie explains. “My husband and I are cautious, wearing masks and gloves when we go out and only going out when necessary. With my husband on the frontlines, I take it personally when I see others not taking precautions and only thinking of themselves rather than others. It really is amazing how much our lives have changed in the past couple of months.”
To destress, Melanie has found time to work in her garden. “I love gardening. It allows me to clear my head, enjoy the fresh air and the quiet, and the gratification of all the blooms,” says Melanie. “That being said, I am looking forward to returning to campus and being amongst my peers and the students again.”