Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Melissa Richards appointed as new Emerson vice president and chief of staff

Ashlyn Wang
Melissa Richards is appointed as the new Emerson vice president and chief of staff, starting her role on Tuesday, Jan 16, 2024. (Ashlyn Wang/Beacon Staff)

Melissa Richards knew from a young age that she wanted to enter the communications field as a broadcast journalist. But as the first member of her family to go to college, she found it difficult to follow that aspiration. Now, 31 years later, Richards has served as vice president of communications and marketing for three colleges, with the recent addition of Emerson. 

“I bring these understandings with a belief in the importance of community and internal communication, which I hope to emphasize in the president’s office to support President Jay Bernhardt and my colleagues in continuing to be active listeners and to communicate with empathy and transparency,” Richards said in an email statement to the Beacon.  

Richards stepped into her role of vice president and chief of staff on Jan. 16 following her appointment by Bernhardt. In her role, Richards will collaborate with Bernhardt on forming a partnership with the Office of Communications and determining the needs of Emerson’s three campuses. Richard’s long-term goals include organizing the Board of Trustees meetings, engaging alumni, and furthering the college’s mission.

“Melissa stood out from the other candidates because of her strengths in strategic and organizational management and her excellent leadership experience at several colleges and in the private sector,” Bernhardt said in an email statement to the Beacon. “As an expert in communication and supporter of the arts, she is also strongly aligned with Emerson’s mission.” 

Prior to working at Emerson, Richards spent the first 16 years of her career running corporate communications, marketing, and strategic alliances for both international and start-up software 

companies, allowing her to work with diverse groups of people.

“I learned the complexity of higher education administration, which is quite different from decision-making and policy-making at public universities, all of which is extremely different from the processes and culture of corporate work,” Richards said. 

She then transitioned into working in higher education after graduating with degrees in communications and Spanish from Virginia Tech, afterward serving as assistant vice president for marketing and publications at the institute in 2009. Richards later held vice president positions at St. Lawrence University in 2015, Sweet Briar College in 2017, and Hamilton College in 2019. Pulling from these experiences, she hopes to help shape policy at Emerson in enrollment, brand marketing, fundraising, and community engagement.

“I see communications as the critical thread that weaves together all the administrative divisions and constituencies of the college in order to thrive,” Richards said.

Richards recalls first visiting Emerson on a college tour with her daughter and has been “watching and admiring the school since then.”

“As a communications professional, writer, artisan, lover of music, and theatre mom, I love the College’s mission for communication and the arts,” Richards said. ”The more I learned about Emerson and met Emersonians, the more I fell in love.”

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About the Contributor
Bridget Frawley, Staff Writer
Bridget Frawley (she/her) is a freshman journalism major from Jupiter, Florida. When she is not writing for the news section, she is a morning anchor for Mornings with George Knight of WERS 88.9 FM. She also loves reading, going on long walks, and thrifting.
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