AACTE Member Spotlight: Melody Russell

AACTE’s Member Spotlight features an individual from a member institution, highlighting how their work makes a difference in classrooms across the country. Nominate yourself or another member by providing a response to the following questions and sending it to mgrenda@aacte.org.

Melody RussellMeet Melody Russell …

Current Position: Professor, Auburn University

Number of years in your position: Since 2002

Alma Maters: North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (B.S.); University of Nebraska-Lincoln, (M.S.); University of Georgia, (Ph.D.)


How long have you been a member of AACTE?
I’ve been a member since 2019.

Why did you join AACTE?
I was serving as assistant department head and my department head at the time invited me to join the TAG he started for department heads, chairs, and directors.

Why did you decide to enter the field of educator preparation? 

It is so rewarding to have the opportunity to engage pre-service teachers in experiences that prepare them for an increasingly culturally and linguistically diverse classroom. I had teachers that motivated me and took the extra time to help me reach my potential in STEM and I strive to provide the knowledge and skills to both novice and veteran teachers, so they recognize and cultivate the untapped talent and unlimited potential in all of the students in their classrooms.

What’s been your favorite or most memorable moment of your career so far?
Graduating the first Black student followed by the first African American female student with a Ph.D. from the science education program at my institution. When I found this out, it only validated that I am where I am supposed to be (particularly, when I was the second African American to get a Ph.D. in the program from which I graduated). 

What’s one thing — educator preparation-related or not — you learned in the last month?
I will say that the longer I am in academe the more I learn not to “sweat the small stuff” as they say. More specifically, I learned that things that used to stress me out as an assistant or associate Pprofessor (e.g., proposal deadlines, manuscript deadlines) don’t stress me out as much and this is important if you are going to have longevity in higher education.

What has been the greatest challenge in your career?
I have had to work hard so colleagues and students understand the value and importance of diversity, equity, and social justice in science teaching. Moreover, being a Black woman in academe, at a traditionally White institution (TWI) or predominantly White institution (PWI) is a challenge in itself. However, I have a lot of family support, as well as phenomenal mentors whohave all helped me navigate and advance to meet challenges, obstacles, or barriers. I also see it is my responsibility to overcome any challenges since so many have done this for me.

What advice would you give someone who is interested in working in this field?
Always know your own worth and demand to be respected and acknowledged for it, understand the importance of being persistent, and understand the power of grit. These factors are key to staying the course and advancing in academe.

Who or what inspires you?
There are so many sheroes and heroes that inspire me. To name a few I would say Ida B. Wells, Maya Angelou, and James Baldwin. I am standing on the shoulders of giants.

What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I love making and creating! I design jewelry, crochet, and even loved drawing cartoons when I was young.

What is your favorite part about being a member of AACTE?
I have several colleagues and mentors that are members and my favorite part of being a member is having the opportunity to connect with them at the conferences. I also love meeting colleagues from other institutions and learning about their research. In addition, I love attending the book fairs because I am an avid reader and book collector so last time, we attended I bought lots of books! I recommend AACTE since you have the opportunity to network with colleagues from so many different institutions.

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Meghan Grenda

Director of Membership, AACTE