Michelle Meggs is the executive director of the Women + Girls Research Alliance, an affiliate of urbanCORE at UNC Charlotte. She is UNC Charlotte’s 2023 Staff Employee of the Year winner in the category of public and community service.
This award is given to someone who makes outstanding contributions by participating in or implementing community and public service projects, such as volunteering with various nonprofit organizations.
Meggs’ work with women and girls stretches across the Charlotte area, reaching numerous nonprofit organizations that help women make their way in a world full of obstacles and challenges. The Women + Girls Research Alliance was founded in 2006 as a community-based organization and integrated into UNC Charlotte in 2010 to provide greater access to faculty researchers.
“Dr. Meggs has elevated the alliance into a high-powered research and organizing force,” wrote Provost Alicia Bertone, who nominated Meggs. “It has become a go-to community resource for producing innovative solutions to systemic challenges that impede the well-being of women and girls.”
Meggs’ cozy, sunlit office is filled with all kinds of books. Her are “The Bluest Eye” and “The Color Purple.” Both focus on young women fighting against societal, economic and cultural standards, which is where most of her research and community work is based. For her, opinion, research and outreach go hand in hand.
“Research should have legs,” Meggs said. “It shouldn’t be published and then put on the shelf.”
Meggs has worked tirelessly to meet these expectations. She built a group of 12 regional, executive and community leaders from Ally Financial, Aldersgate, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the Women’s Impact Fund, Mecklenburg County Government, the Leon Levine Foundation, Crossnore Communities for Children and Lending Tree Foundation and UNC Charlotte.
Meggs and the alliance got to work fostering important relationships with many community partners and nonprofit organizations, such as She Built This City, Pink Mentor Network, Girls on the Run Greater Charlotte, Bilingual Brown Babies and Hope Vibes.
“Dr. Meggs personally curated a Community Resource Network of more than 60 community-based organizations,” wrote Bertone. “The benefits of this network is showing evidence. The alliance also completed an evaluation plan for the Girl Scouts Hornets’ Nest and secured a $15,000 grant from EmpowHERment to redesign their educational curriculum to align with a social justice model.”
For Meggs, every connection made and every event planned is to empower women to fearlessly pursue their aspirations.
“I want women and girls to create their own narratives,” Meggs said. “How do we get more girls involved in STEM? How do we make sure they have access to breast cancer screenings?”
Thanks to Meggs and her team’s creation of the online community resource network and developing spaces for open conversations, women and girls are writing their own stories.
When planning for the Women's Summit virtually, Meggs brought in experts from across the country to expand the network and its reach. Before the summit, Zoom sessions were held to discuss issues in education, access to housing and increase in domestic violence over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her goal was to bring in experts to discuss these topics and let them take the reins.
In October 2022, Meggs was behind the alliance’s inaugural “Taking Space Without Apology: A Women and Girls Leadership Café,” which used a World Cafe model to create small, facilitated conversations among mostly female participants of diverse races, ethnicity, age, economic status and professional backgrounds. The conversations addressed issues impacting the lives of women and girls from the Charlotte region. More than 150 people participated, about 20% were middle school and high school students from Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools.
“This program is UNC Charlotte’s best-kept secret,” said Meggs, who’s in her third year as executive director. “There’s nothing like this in the UNC System, and we’re always moving toward more funding, researchers and overall interest.”
Meggs noted the hard work and support of those around her, including, but not limited to, former Associate Provost Kurt Walton and current Associate Provost Byron White, Angela Woods, Janika Lewis, Joy Paige Springs, Natalie Brown, Tamara Johnson and the entire urbanCORE team.
Her reaction upon winning: “I was shocked,” said Meggs. “I’m honored that someone thought enough of me to take the time to write a nomination.”
All winners will be recognized at UNC Charlotte’s Staff Employee of the Year event held Thursday, May 4.