Bordentown resident Melissa Maszczak is thrilled that working in the president’s office at Thomas Edison State University has led to her own leadership role at the state school that provides a variety of flexible degree programs to working adults.
Maszczak was named the senior fellow and director of the university’s new Center for Leadership and Governance and assumed all her new responsiblities July 1.
The center is partnered with the John S. Watson School of Public Service and was established by the university’s board of trustees to provide guidance and leadership development for individuals who aspire to high positions in areas such as higher education, nonprofits, and government with master classes, workshops and certificate programs.
“The idea is that we want to have the master class for people who aspire to the presidency,” Maszczak says.
She was appointed her new position following the retirement of Lisa Meehan, the founding director of the center.
Maszczak is working on a curriculum with President Emeritus George A. Pruitt for master classes, as well as establishing a non credit course based on a book that is to be released in September called Time to Get Real by Alex J. Plinio and Melissa Smith.
She hopes the non-credit course that is being planned with instructional designers at the university will be finished and ready by the time of the book’s release in the fall.
The course will be designed to help an individual design a strategic plan for their life similar to how businesses create strategic plans, Maszczak says.
Prior to her transition to the center, Maszczak worked in the president’s office alongside president Merodie A. Hancock since her inauguration in 2018 and with Pruitt during his presidency since she joined the university in 2007.
“It’s more of a leadership role rather than a support position and the work is really going to be interesting,” Maszczack says of her new position in the center.
Maszczak will be returning to work with Pruitt, who is also a board distinguished fellow in building the center with his vision behind it.
“Having worked with Ms. Maszczak for more than 10 years, I know her to be a consummate professional who is passionate about her work,” Pruitt said. “I am pleased Melissa will be joining the center and look forward to the energy and dedication she brings to the advancement of the center’s mission.”
Maszczak says Pruitt spoke with Hancock about transitioning her role over to the center.
Her positions prior to moving to the center were executive assistant to the president and secretary to the board of trustees.
“I worked directly for her [Hancock] so he [Pruitt] kind of had to steal me away,” Maszczak said. “It was a really great opportunity. I’m appreciative for her support and he was very happy that I was interested and that I wanted to work with him again.”
Maszczak began working at the university as a confidential assistant to the president and then assistant to the president with Pruitt before her promotion to executive assistant.
As executive assistant to the president since 2018, she coordinated Hancock’s presidential inauguration after Pruitt stepped down, so she is no stranger to the leadership role.
“The inauguration was combined with our commencement ceremony,” Maszczak said. Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman was a guest speaker. “We had 424 graduates and over 5,000 guests who attended.”
She also handled multiple administrative responsibilities such as managing the president’s calendar and helping maintain her relationship with the senior staff and cabinet.
“It’s bittersweet because I was there for so long,” she says of leaving the president’s office which was an unexpected career shift. “I really enjoyed working there but I’m ready for something new and exciting. I’m excited for the challenge of building the center and being creative and working with wonderful people.”
During her time as secretary to the board of trustees, she would help prepare for quarterly board meetings and manage logistics along with acting as a liaison between the president and the board and the university.
Maszczak was not always a Bordentown resident. She grew up in Roebling before attending and graduating from Monmouth University in 2002, where she met her husband, Ross Maszczak, who works as a network and systems engineer.
At Monmouth, she was involved with the Monmouth Review Literary Magazine. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in psychology.
Following her graduation, she wrote for the Red Bank Review Literary Magazine and the Coaster newspaper.
As she was still navigating her future career path with considerations of becoming an English teacher, Maszczak says she worked as a waitress.
Ultimately, she decided she did not want to teach and in 2007, she moved to Bordentwon with her husband.
“We loved it so much that his parents came and moved to Bordentown,” she said.
The same year there was an opening at the president’s office at Thomas Edison State University.
“I never knew what I wanted to do and when I came here and worked, I learned a lot about the presidency and higher education and it’s just been amazing, I learned so much from everybody here,” she said. “It was interesting how perfectly matched my qualities were to the job; writing editing proofreading, and also event planning and managing multiple details.”
Maszczak received her master’s degree in liberal studies and industrial organizational psychology at Thomas Edison State University.
Outside of her career, Maszczak is a mom of two children, Patrick (10) and Olivia (7), who attend Peter Muschal School.
In her free time she enjoys working out and reading, something she has always loved. She says she is part of a Bordentown-based book club.
When asked about the future, Maszczak is open minded about the possibilities.
“Maybe in the future I’ll work on a Ph.D program, and maybe I’ll become president one day,” she said. “It is probably the toughest job in American higher education.”
Given her unexpected career origins at the university, she believes anything is possible.