Melinda Walls didn’t always plan on a career in higher education. Originally, fashion merchandising was the intended path for the new Stover Chair for Entrepreneurial Leadership.
“At the time I was an undergraduate I was [interested in fashion merchandising],” said Walls. “I like business and creativity, and that has persisted throughout my life.”
The realization came to Walls at the end of her junior year at West Virginia University that fashion merchandising was not the future for her.
“I didn’t want to change my major at that point,” said Walls. “But my dad had been a lawyer and I had always been around law and interested in law so I applied to law school.”
After law school, Walls worked as an attorney, completed work in the oil and gas industry and raised children. Then she found her calling.
“Because I was living in Morgantown, my home department needed someone to do academic advising,” said Walls. “I took it as a part-time job and that was how I started in higher education.”
This lead to Walls becoming a professor and teaching business classes at her alma mater.
“While I enjoyed being a lawyer, I really enjoy working with college students and being a college professor,” said Walls.
While teaching at WVU, the college of business opened an entrepreneurship center that Walls contacted in order to help her students. What she didn’t plan on was creating a whole area of study in the college of business.
“That’s how I got involved in entrepreneurship education,” said Walls. “I started the first entrepreneurship minor at West Virginia University, then I became the Director of the Entrepreneurship center.”
Through her background in the oil and gas industry, Walls made a connection to Waynesburg in Stacey Brodak, vice president for Institutional Advancement.
“Stacey called me and said that [Waynesburg] was interested in starting an entrepreneurship program,” said Walls. “That’s what I did at my last job at WVU, I built an ecosystem that connected the 14 colleges at WVU and I kind of loosely put them together in an organization.”
The decision to leave WVU was not an easy one for Walls to make but she did recognize the special qualities that Waynesburg possessed.
“It took me a long time to decide to make the right move,” said Walls. “There was something that was special about this campus, I noticed it when I got out the car. I don’t really know how to explain it, feel like I was called to come here.”
Walls narrowed it down to three reasons for why she chose to come to Waynesburg. A gut feeling, the president, and the size of the school.
“There really is a special feeling about this place, people are open and excited,” said Walls. “I really liked and understood and agree with President Lee’s vision and the mission of the university. Then the size, I came from place that had 30,000 students, and here it is much easier to do things because people are willing to help and everyone is unified in the same mission.”