MCC Alumni Feature: Melanie Weaver Barnett, leading business leaders.

April 14, 2022

Melanie Weaver Barnett

MCC Alumni Feature: Melanie Weaver Barnett, leading business leaders.

Spartan News is presented by Mason County Central Schools in partnership with Mason County Press. This special series of Spartan News features alumni of MCC. 

By Sarah Jensen, Contributing Writer. 

  • MCC Class of 1979
  • Undergraduate Degree: bachelor of arts, education, University of Michigan, 1983
  • Graduate Degree: Master of business administration, University of Michigan, 1991
  • Current Position: Chief Education Officer, University of Michigan Ross School of Business

When Melanie Weaver graduated from MCC, her fellow Spartans voted her Most Studious and Most Likely to Succeed in her class mock election. She didn’t know exactly what that success might look like in 1979, but her love of learning and willingness to take one step after another led to achievement in the education and business arenas.

Her deep interest in education was instilled by her father Richard, superintendent of MCC schools for nearly 20 years, and her mother Marie who taught countless MCC students to type and take shorthand in her high school business courses. “I loved school. I loved learning,” Melanie says. “I understand education, the importance of establishing objectives and designing a learning experience that will achieve those objectives. And I understand the world of business, the things companies struggle with, how they need to develop their talent, and how to lead the creation of learning experiences that accomplish what they need.”

She utilizes that understanding every day in her current position, where her responsibilities include managing a University of Michigan team that creates education programs for managers and executives of global corporations to help them become better leaders. Programs include strategy and leadership courses on the Ann Arbor campus as well as customized programs conducted on-site to solve particular challenges faced by companies. 

“If vice presidents are retiring in four years and a company doesn’t have director-level people who are ready for those positions, we might be asked to create a program to help them with that,” explains Melanie. “Or a company might need their supply chain leaders to be more innovative and ask us to help them develop that group in order to stay at the forefront of their industry.”

Melanie’s schedule might include a visit to Hong Kong to kick off a program, a stop in India to celebrate the “graduation” of program participants, or a few days in Dubai to lead a presentation or speak at a conference. 

Her career has included progressively more complex roles as she step by step prepared for her present position. She’s moved from teaching elementary school students in Texas to working in management and organization development at a Fortune 500 company in Virginia to managing her own small consulting firm. Missing the sense of community gained from working with a team, she became a program manager at the Broad School at Michigan State University, and then accepted the opportunity at UofM’s Ross School of Business.

Melanie credits MCC with providing a firm foundation for her successful career. “I received an excellent education at MCC,” she says. That excellence included inspirational and challenging teachers such as Jan Keenan (Spanish) and Ted Winkel (social science). “Economics was something I hadn’t been exposed to,” she says. “Mr. Winkel’s class was the first one where I realized I really had to pay attention and study.”

Her extracurricular activities were a source of satisfaction and confidence as well. She performed in plays staged by the high school, and her successes on the track team were exceptional. She won state championships in the mile and two-mile in her senior year and broke the 5-minute mile, a major achievement for high school girls of the time. She still holds school records for her achievements in track.

“Coach [Steve] Bishop made a huge difference in my life,” she says. “He gave me confidence because he had confidence in me and conveyed that. And Coach [Gerry] Genter was a great team builder for the girls’ track team.

“There was so much support for the running,” Melanie continues. “I still feel that to this day. The school community and the community of Scottville were really supportive of me in my athletic endeavors. I learned the importance of community in Scottville.”

On May 3, voters in the Mason County Central School District are being asked to decide on a $33 million bond proposal that includes much needed infrastructure and security/safety updates throughout the campus. Highlights of the bond include enhanced security entrances at all five school buildings, needed updates to the high school’s B and C halls, new high school administrative offices, construction of an auditorium, gymnasium updates at the high school (A.O. Carlson Gym), middle school and upper elementary, new restrooms at Spartan Community Field, synthetic turf and drainage updates of the main field, and technology upgrades. 

Melanie fully supports the proposed technology and facility upgrades to her alma mater.

“Of course, people matter more than facilities,” she says, “but facilities are important. The track surface matters to the times a runner can achieve. The performing arts center, the stage, and the equipment matter to the development of an aspiring actor. 

“It matters in both the learning experience and in your confidence level. If a performing arts student showcases something to get into a university, they’re going to be a lot more confident if they’ve been on a real stage with a real curtain and backdrop than if they’d only performed in a gym.”

Melanie has two adult sons, Nicholas and Nathaniel. She and her partner, Kevin Knowles, a fellow MCC graduate, live in Ann Arbor and plan to return to Mason County when they retire.

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