ETSU’s new associate dean of students assumed her post on Jan. 15.

Michelle Byrd previously served as the associate director of ETSU Disability Services. She has also worked as an instructor, teaching a number of classes in developmental studies, human development and learning, leadership studies and pre-health.

“I love learning new things and I welcome the opportunity to share the knowledge with others,” Byrd said. “I have developed a servant leadership perspective throughout my career and I believe that education is the great empowerer.”

Byrd received her undergraduate degree from Milligan College and her Masters of Arts in English, Masters of Teaching and Doctorate in Education from ETSU.

As a first-generation college graduate and a native of Appalachia, Byrd has a unique glimpse into the challenges of many students. Specifically, Byrd has a passion for serving as an advocate to students with disabilities.

“I am concerned with civil rights and equality as it affects all people,” Byrd said. “I believe that accessibility is part of that equality. Students with disabilities represent a minority group who have a unique experience due to barriers they potentially face. Those barriers come in the form of both social discrimination and physical access barriers. My work at ETSU has focused on identifying and remedying those barriers which prevent students with disabilities from receiving equitable access to learning.”

Byrd’s seven-year service as the Associate Director of ETSU Disabilities Services gave her a perspective and skill set that equipped her to better understand and serve students with unique needs.

“While there I became very interested in the field and more importantly how services provided by the department impacted the success of students with disabilities,” Byrd said. “I knew then that throughout my tenure at ETSU I would serve as a student advocate.”

Byrd was recognized as being an innovative professor by Austin Peay University and other Tennessee Board of Regents faculty as being an innovative professor. Byrd associates the concept of innovation with that of adaption.

“The word innovation comes from the latin word ‘innovare,’ which means to renew or make new,” Byrd said. “Renewal has, at its core, a willingness to consider the benefits of change. The world is a constantly changing place and one must be willing to adapt to survive. In the field of higher education, being willing to adapt often results in better service afforded to the student or a better paradigm with which to achieve an end.”

Byrd said a willingness to consider alternate methods of solving problems and issues would benefit her in her new role as associate dean.

As associate dean, Byrd’s duties include working in matters regarding student discipline and student conduct.

“It is a privilege to participate in higher education, and any student agreeing to participate must live up to the standard of conduct expected by the university,” Byrd said. “The objective of the discipline system is to develop students into more enlightened individuals so that they may fulfill their educational pursuits and become productive citizens. My concern for students and their success is integral to my commitment to address challenging situations with them so that corrective measures can be understood and accepted.”

Byrd is committed to helping all students achieve success in their academic careers and beyond.

“At times, students face barriers that can stem from a variety of sources—social constructs, lack of support, poor decision making skills, et cetera that deter their initial journey,” Byrd said. “I will guide students, collaboratively, to navigate beyond those barriers. Also, by helping students recognize the importance of persisting through obstacles to graduation, they will better themselves, better their families, and better their community.”