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The Path Forward

Melissa Morriss-Olson, PhD

Distinguished Professor of Higher Education Leadership; Founding Director, Doctoral Program in Higher Ed Leadership and Organizational Studies and the Center for Higher Ed Leadership and Innovative Practice; Provost Emerita

PhD, Loyola University

Melissa Morriss-Olson, Ph.D. is a nationally recognized higher education thought leader, speaking and writing often on topics such as higher education innovation, disruption and leadership. Across her three-decade-plus career where she has held senior-level positions in enrollment management, advancement, and academic affairs in addition to serving as a faculty member, Dr. Morriss-Olson has gained a reputation as a creative academic entrepreneur. As Bay Path University Provost (2010-2020), she led the re-engineering of the learning community including the development of the Thumbprint—Bay Path’s distinguishing educational aspirations—as well as the signature Women Empowered as Learners and Leaders (WELL) program. Under her leadership, the institution established a new academic structure, diversified and strengthened faculty resources and development, and launched an online learning initiative. During her tenure at Bay Path, Dr. Morriss-Olson led the development and launch of 40 new academic programs, increasing the graduate program net tuition net revenue contribution by approximately $30 million. Additionally, she led planning efforts culminating in the awarding of significant external grant funding including two multi-million Title III grants, and three separate NSF grants totaling nearly $2 million. Dr. Morriss-Olson also launched and led Bay Path’s diversity and inclusion initiative, resulting in transformational change across the institution.

Author of two books, Academic Entrepreneurship: The Art and Science of Creating the Right Academic Programs (2020), and Survival Strategies for Christian Colleges and Universities: A Leader’s Guide to Managing in Turbulent Times (1997), Dr. Morriss-Olson is the Distinguished Professor of Higher Ed Leadership and Founding Director of the doctoral program in Higher Ed Leadership and Organizational Studies (HELOS) and the Center for Higher Ed Leadership and Innovative Practice (CHELIP) at Bay Path University. In recognition of the significant accomplishments achieved during her ten-year tenure as Bay Path Provost, Dr. Morriss-Olson was appointed (2020) Provost Emerita.

Prior to joining Bay Path University, Dr. Morriss-Olson held executive-level enrollment management and advancement positions at North Park University in Chicago where she restructured the enrollment management function, resulting in a substantial increase in total enrollment, led the institution’s first capital campaign which exceeded goal at $40 million, and founded and directed the nationally recognized Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management, one of the first academic centers of its kind in the country. In addition, she held the first Axelson endowed professorship in nonprofit management, teaching courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in a wide range of areas.

Dr. Morriss-Olson received a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Loyola University of Chicago, a Master of Arts in Counselor Education from Northeastern Illinois University, and a Bachelor of Science in Sociology and Social Work from Minnesota State University at Bemidji. In addition, Dr. Morriss-Olson has completed several executive leadership development programs including the Institute for Educational Management (IEM) at Harvard and the Executive Leadership Academy sponsored by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the Council of Independent Colleges.