Gresalfi reappointed dean of residential colleges and residential education

Melissa Gresalfi has been reappointed as Vanderbilt University’s dean of residential colleges and residential education and dean of The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Tiffiny Tung announced today.

“The reappointment of Dean Gresalfi recognizes and celebrates the positive impact her leadership has had on residential education and the Vanderbilt student experience over the past five years,” Tung said. “Her unwavering dedication and thoughtful long-term vision for residential colleges will continue to be instrumental as we create communities that foster connection, belonging and intellectual growth.”

Gresalfi, professor of mathematics education and learning sciences and learning environment design in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development, was named dean of The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons in 2019. In 2023, her role expanded to include upper-division engagement, and she has since overseen the entire residential college system, working closely with faculty and staff to support the experience of all undergraduate students.

Melissa Gresalfi
Photo credit: Vanderbilt University

“Our programs emphasize informal learning and highlight the extent to which academic learning is really only accomplished by engaging the whole person,” Gresalfi said. “It’s much harder to learn when you feel scared or lonely; it’s much harder to take initiative or to explore new ideas when you aren’t sure if you belong. Some people refer to these things as ‘soft skills,’ but these aspects of identity and belonging are inseparable from learning.”

The Ingram Commons was established in 2008 as a “campus within a campus” for first-year students, designed to cultivate student success through engagement with faculty, create an intentionally diverse community and provide connections to campus resources that align with five key areas of growth: intellect, community, personal well-being, self-discovery and cultural awareness. The residential college system has grown to also include five residential colleges for upper-division students, with the newest of the West End Neighborhood residential colleges scheduled to open in fall 2024.

Within all residential colleges, live-in faculty heads and dedicated professional staff collaborate to create programming and leadership opportunities for students to engage in learning and connect with community outside of the classroom.

“I’ve learned a lot about leadership from working with Dean Gresalfi,” said Celso Castilho, faculty head of Memorial House, associate professor of history and director of the Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latinx Studies. “She’s built a strong culture of engagement among the faculty heads of house, and it’s through this team that I’ve learned the most about trying to get it right at Vanderbilt.”

Castilho also praised Gresalfi’s dedicated efforts to blend advocacy and research focused on improving performance and retention rates among first-year minorities in math and the sciences.

For students, Gresalfi’s accessible, “open-door,” and holistic methods for serving needs across all areas of personal and professional growth have had incredible real-life impact, said Anwar Fadi Hussein Agha, a junior studying economics and medicine, health and society.

Melissa Gresalfi visits with students. Photo credit: Vanderbilt University

“Dean Gresalfi’s student-centered approach and uplifting leadership have played a pivotal role in my success at Vanderbilt by connecting me with the right resources and individuals,” Agha said. “She has truly been a guiding hand since my first day here at Vanderbilt.”