Safewright leaves behind legacy of high-quality residential life

June 18, 2012
Contact: Maryville College Office of Communications
865.981.8207; communication@maryvillecollege.edu

Michelle Ballew Safewright, Maryville College’s associate dean of campus life, will leave the College July 1, after 16 years of service in the Student Development Division.

She is leaving to join her husband, Andy, who left the College’s Dining Services last year to become dining services director at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tenn.

During her tenure, Safewright has managed residence life, coordinated campus co-curricular student activities, developed and implemented the College’s sexual assault policy, taught courses in the freshman curriculum and served on a variety of campus-wide committees. She helped manage the planning and construction of three of the College’s eight residence halls and coordinated renovations to all of the others.

According to Vandy Kemp, Maryville College’s vice president and dean of students, Safewright’s legacy will her numerous efforts to improve the quality of residence life on the campus.

“With the support of then-president Dr. Gerald Gibson, Michelle assured that the facilities, staffing and programming changed over the course of years, resulting in consistently high marks from residents regarding their living experience and a significant increase in the percentage of residential students,” she said.

Safewright has been locally and regionally recognized for her outstanding performance. She was selected as MC’s Outstanding Administrator in 2007, and she received the lifetime achievement award in 2006 from the South Atlantic Affiliation of College and University Residence Halls. Her conference presentations and publications are numerous, and she is viewed as an influential leader in college and university housing circles.

Kemp said Safewright has loved MC and its students, giving tirelessly of her personal time.

“She founded and advised both the MC Scotties Dance Team and the Dance Ensemble, and she has fostered a series of co-curricular activities around the topics of women’s issues and prevention of violence against women,” the dean said. “She started the Take Back the Night annual observance at MC, as well as the For and About Women series for freshmen women.

“She has quietly and effectively managed her program area to a level of excellence, all the while mentoring the young men and women around her,” Kemp added. “She will be deeply missed, both personally and professionally.”

Nikki Wilks called Safewright “a servant-leader” and “the epitome of what Maryville College teaches its students about leadership.”

Wilks, a recent graduate who got to know Safewright through her involvement with the College’s Dance Ensemble and Residence Life, praised the veteran staff member’s diligence to ensure that students’ emotional and social well-being was being met, as well as their physical well-being.

“She worked diligently with the Residence Life staff to make sure that we were equipped to handle the emotional situations that occur with students while also preparing us to make sure that students have a safe and appropriate social environment for relating with the community through the programming efforts of Residence Life,” she said. “Michelle understood that in order for MC's students to be academically successful, they first must be emotionally and physically healthy.”

Safewright was recognized with a gift during the College’s annual Leadership Awards Ceremony held April 24 in the Alumni Gymnasium. A farewell party for her was held in Bartlett Hall on May 15 to allow the campus community to express their appreciation and offer well wishes.