Experienced administrator to lead student-athlete academic support
Melissa Dawson, an educator and administrator for the past 29 years who has guided student-athletes to academic success at Tulsa, Iowa, South Carolina and Kentucky, will join Northern Illinois University as the senior associate athletics director and director of Student-Athlete Academic Support Services (S.A.A.S.S.)
In her new role, Dawson will lead the academic support unit for Huskie Athletics, serve as a member of Frazier’s senior staff and work closely with the academic departments and counselors throughout campus to put all NIU student-athletes on a path to graduation and to student career success.
Frazier said he is extremely pleased to bring an administrator with Dawson’s experience to NIU.
“Melissa Dawson brings a wealth of experience to this role at NIU and I am confident our student-athletes will benefit from her knowledge and leadership in this area,” Frazier said. “We completed an exhaustive search process and definitely found the best person for the job and the right fit for NIU in this extremely important position. She is the final piece of the puzzle in terms of our senior leadership team in athletics. and I feel great about the direction this group is taking Huskie Athletics.”
Birberick believes Dawson’s background as a student-athlete, coach, teacher and administrator made her the perfect choice to lead NIU’s S.A.A.S.S. Office.
“Melissa brings a strong background in academics, administration, and leadership as well as great energy and enthusiasm, to NIU,” Birberick said. “She has worked closely with student athletes and understands the challenges they face as they strive not only to succeed, but also excel, academically. We are pleased she has chosen to become part of the NIU Huskie family.”
Dawson has spent the last six years as the associate athletics director for Student Services at the University of Tulsa, where she oversees the academic services unit for TU’s 400 student-athletes and supervises a staff of seven. Under her leadership, Tulsa student-athletes have consistently posted a combined cumulative grade point average above 3.0 and the school’s Graduation Success Rate (GSR) for student-athletes has risen from 70 percent in 1999 to 86 percent in the most recent reports.
Prior to going to Tulsa in June 2008, Dawson spent three years as an athletic academic coordinator at the University of Iowa where she worked with women’s basketball and softball, as well as several other Hawkeye sports teams. She previously held similar positions at the University of South Carolina (1999-2001) and at the University of Kentucky (1996-99).
At both universities, her responsibilities included serving as the academic counselor for the football and men’s basketball teams and coordinating the tutoring program. She also taught eighth grade language arts and reading for four years in the Richland School District 2 in Columbia, S.C. before returning to college athletics at Iowa.
A native of Barrington, Ill., Dawson earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Drake University, where she was a member of the Bulldogs’ volleyball team. After graduation, she worked as an elementary and middle school teacher in Lake Zurich, Ill. for seven years while also serving as head volleyball and assistant track coach at Lake Zurich High School and pursuing her master’s degree in counseling and higher education from DePaul University, which she earned in 1996. She got her start in college athletics in the summer of 1995 as an academic advising intern for the Blue Demons’ men’s basketball team.
“I am very thrilled to be a part of the Huskie family,” Dawson said. “With Sean Frazier’s and Anne Birberick’s leadership, the direction for Huskie student-athletes to excel in the classroom and on the playing field will continue to grow. My goal is to make sure our student-athletes have the best experience at NIU as well as develop academically, athletically and socially, so that when they leave us they will be prepared for life. This is an exciting time for Huskie Athletics and I am happy to be a part of it.”
Dawson will begin her duties at NIU later this spring. Former NIU Vice Provost Earl “Gip” Seaver will continue to serve as the interim director of NIU Student-Athlete Academic Support Services until her arrival.
For more information on Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.