Top 100 Women of Impact: Melissa P. Taverner, Ph.D.

Melissa P. Taverner, Ph.D.

President, Lyon College

About me: I was born and raised in Danville, Virginia, and graduated from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia, with a biology major. My graduate work (M.Sc. from the University of Reading, England, and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia) focused on the development of biological pesticides for the control of invasive insect species, as well as the effect of disease on community dynamics.

After graduate school, I started teaching at a liberal arts college and found that working with undergraduate students is my professional calling. At every stage in my career, I have kept the support and development of students at the center of my purpose, and I have found it the greatest privilege to accompany them for a time as they move into adulthood.

Lives/Works in: Batesville

Best Career Advice: Always be prepared for and embrace change. Although often unanticipated, change with purpose and intent is necessary for growth and is often an opportunity to reveal untapped strengths. Seize those opportunities when you can. Remember to be patient with yourself and others as you adapt to the new normal.

Lesson Learned the Hard Way: Never assume everyone approaches a problem or question with the same background, perspective and purpose. Engaging everyone meaningfully and authentically takes more time, energy and grace than you will imagine. Creating that open, respectful and collaborative environment by listening first is the best way to achieve your goals.

Call to Action: Communities in Arkansas and beyond need to redouble their efforts in supporting education at every level. The ability to learn a new skill, engage a new perspective, understand your own gifts and use them to strengthen your community is vital. Educating students requires a society that supports professionals who work daily with students, supports students and families outside the classroom and recognizes that a successful future depends upon an educated and engaged citizenry.

A Women’s Foundation of Arkansas Initiative

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