Spartan Proud: Melanie Weaver Barnett, running with the Wolverines.

April 21, 2017

mcc_weaver_1Spartan Proud: Melanie Weaver Barnett, running with the Wolverines. 

#SpartanProud #MCCSchools.

Spartan Proud is sponsored by Mason County Central Schools. This series features alumni of Mason County Central telling their stories. Today we feature Melanie Weaver Barnett, class of 1979.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

ANN ARBOR — Melanie Weaver Barnett sums up her experiences of attending and graduating from MCC High School, and growing up in Scottville like this: “It is the value of community, the importance of each individual’s role in creating and contributing to that community, and the incredible value that accrues to the community members and beyond. I try to make these ideas a priority in my work as a leader today by ensuring we create a community among our team rather than just a ‘workplace.’”

When she attended MCC, Melanie’s father, Richard, was the superintendent and her mother, Marie, was a high school teacher. Melanie was a record-breaking athlete who went on to become an All-American and Big 10 champion collegiate cross country runner at University of Michigan. To this day, she holds the MCC school records for 1,600 meter track run at 4 minutes, 58.5 seconds and 3,200 meter run at 10 minutes, 42.5 seconds — both achieved in 1979, her senior year. She is also an inductee of the Mason County Sports Hall of Fame.

“Growing up in the small town of Scottville and the Mason County community has had a huge positive impact on my life,” she says. “People are really supportive of each other. I appreciated it then, but it means even more now, looking back on it. The Scottville community was genuinely interested in what I and other young people were doing and wanted us to succeed. I felt that in my heart and soul, and it made a difference to me.

“One example of this support is that even after high school, when I was competing in track and field for the University of Michigan, Harold and Jean Merrill — a wonderful couple in town who enjoyed sports of all kinds — traveled to several of my collegiate meets. They even drove 12 hours to Knoxville, Tenn. to see me compete in the Dogwood relays! I can tell you that my teammates, most of them from larger cities, were pretty surprised by this. And then this community of Scottville, after I became an all-American and Big 10 Champion, had a ‘Melanie Weaver Day.’ I received an award at the half time of the MCC-Ludington basketball game—and my name was up in lights on the bank sign.  What an honor and meaningful experience for a 21-year-old! My teammates were truly astounded now, they knew we had something special in Scottville. And their reaction made me even more aware of it, too. It’s been incredibly uplifting and humbling for me to have this kind of support and to be honored by these things and others, like being inducted into the Mason County Sports Hall of Fame.”

Melanie attended high school at MCC in the late 1970s when the school faced some serious financial issues, which included a teachers’ strike and major budget cuts. The school was considering cutting its athletic budget.

“The athletics boosters came through with funds that ensured the sports team opportunities stayed intact. I’ve never forgotten that because a year out of my sport probably would have meant ‘no collegiate running career.’”

Athletics had an impact on her life and gave her opportunities in college. To this day she returns to visit her parents in the home she grew up on on Reinberg Avenue. When there she makes sure to have a run around town.

“I Iove coming back to visit and spending time in Mason County,” she says. She says her runs are nostalgic and she still remembers the team’s nicknames for the runs: “intown loop,” “short killer,” “middle killer,” and “long killer.” She says she also likes to come to the area to hike at the Ludington State Park, kayak down the Pere Marquette River, and go the parade on Fourth of July. 

“My former MCC cross country teammates will know exactly what I mean by those names” she says. “I have to admit, these days it’s mostly the middle and the short, as well as the slow,” she laughs.

“The athletic opportunities were powerful in my life, but of course academics are even more important. MCC schools provided me with a good grounding in writing and speaking that served me well in college. I particularly remember Kathy Hansen’s College English class and Jan Keenan’s Spanish class, the latter of which I took for all four years, with the final year by ‘independent study’ out of Mrs. Keenan’s generosity because there was no actual fourth year Spanish class. I loved learning a second language, and in so doing, I learned more about my own language. I still use the writing techniques I learned in Mrs. Hansen’s class. And I would be remiss to not mention typing! I am still today a very fast typist and for that I thank my mom and Bruce Krieger.”

Melanie says her advice to any current high school student is to take as much math as possible. “And get a tutor if you need it to help you understand and love it. The math classes were there; I just wasn’t aware how much they would have added to my capability-set for college and beyond.”

After graduating high school, Melanie earned a bachelor’s degree in education, and later a masters in business administration degree, from the University of Michigan.

She began her career path teaching in public schools in Katy, Texas and Grand Ledge, Mich.

“After completing my MBA, I worked in management and organization development for a then-Fortune 500 company in Richmond, Virginia called Ethyl Corporation. Upon a subsequent move back to Michigan, I did a stint as a consultant and started my own practice called The Leadership and Learning Alliance. It took about two years of that for me to come to the realization that I thrive on having a team of people to work with and wasn’t really enjoying working by myself from home so much of the time. That led me to a role at Michigan State University’s Broad School of Business Executive Development Programs.”

In 1999, two years at Michigan State, she says she was encouraged to apply for the position at U of M. 

Melanie now lives in the Ann Arbor area and is the chief executive officer at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business Executive Education Department.

“Essentially, we help companies solve pressing business challenges, and capitalize on their most promising opportunities, by creating learning/development experiences that equip their managers and leaders with the right capabilities, mindsets, and commitment to get it done.  We work with mostly large companies in North America, Europe,  South America, Asia (including India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Japan), and other countries. We have an office in Hong Kong with five staff members and two representatives based in India.”

Growing up in a small western Michigan town was mostly a positive experience for Melanie. However, there were some challenges that presented themselves to her when she entered her careers.

“While we are some of the luckiest people in the world to grow up and/or live in Mason County, one potential deficit area is the relatively low level of diversity,” she says. “I collaborate with people who have a variety of educational backgrounds. I work with people who are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Mormon, Hindu, atheist, agnostic. I interact with people who identify with each dimension of the LGBTQ community. In other words, I have to communicate with, influence, and create results with people of many different backgrounds, languages, preferences. With all the wonderful experiences life in this wonderful community in west Michigan offers, you have to acknowledge that diversity  is not a major feature of the region. I have been known to make an attempt at humor on this topic by saying that just about only diversity we have here is whether you’re Protestant or you’re Catholic. {insert laughing emoji here.} That’s not entirely true, of course. I’m always pleased, though, when I hear about young people from Mason County traveling to other countries, hosting exchange students, joining groups that support diversity, enjoying music and art and products from around the world, and attending universities where they will experience significant diversity. These kinds of activities help develop essential skills for today’s workplace–and for life.”

She says like many parents, she is most proud in life of her two children: Nick, 27, and Nate, 19. Nick is a civil engineer in Houston, Texas and Nate is a freshman at Western Michigan University studying exercise science.

Story copyrighted © 2017 Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. Photograph used with permission. No portion of story or photograph may be reproduced or broadcasted without expressed written consent. 

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