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Melinda Lewis

Associate Professor of the Practice
Primary office:
Twente Hall
Room 312


Melinda Lewis, LMSW, received her Master of Social Work degree from Washington University in St. Louis, MO. She worked as a nonprofit policy advocate, grassroots organizer, and community researcher for several years and is now an Associate Professor of Practice in the School of Social Welfare, teaching social policy and community practice courses at the University of Kansas. She is the Assistant Director for the Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion (AEDI), advancing policy based on research into the role of assets in addressing educational inequities and catalyzing upward mobility. At AEDI, Ms. Lewis contributes to reports on student debt, Children's Savings Accounts, and asset policy; assists with research around the country on CSAs; and translates AEDI's research into strategic communications with policymakers and other stakeholders. She recently coauthored (with KU's Dr. William Elliott) the book, The Real College Debt Crisis: How Student Borrowing Threatens Financial Well-Being and Erodes the American Dream. She can be found on Twitter @melindaklewis.


Melinda Lewis teaches primarily social policy, community organization, and advocacy practice courses, mainly in the MSW program (Foundation and SWWAP concentration) within the School of Social Welfare

Teaching Interests

  • Policy Analysis
  • Advocacy
  • Poverty and Economic Justice
  • Community Organizing
  • Social Change
  • Higher Education and Economic Mobility


As Assistant Director of the Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion (AEDI), Lewis studies asset-based strategies for improving educational outcomes and restoring higher education as an arbiter of equity and social mobility. She communicates AEDI research to policymakers and practitioners, with a goal of leveraging a public commitment to asset empowerment and equitable opportunities for upward mobility, through the mechanism of educational attainment, for a generation of American children.

Research Interests

  • Asset-based strategies for restoring higher education as a catalyst for economic mobility
  • Financial aid reform
  • Economic inequality
  • Strategies for effective policy advocacy by nonprofit organizations
  • Advocacy evaluation
  • And advocacy capacity-building for individuals and social service organizations.


As a Truman Scholar, Ms. Lewis serves on the University of Kansas' Truman Scholar selection committee, mentoring applicant Scholars on their career plans and policy proposals. Ms. Lewis also mentors adjunct faculty and GTAs in the School of Social Welfare's policy courses. Off campus, Ms. Lewis advises nonprofit organizations on policy advocacy, advocacy strategy evaluation, and coalition-building for successful social change.

Selected Publications

Elliott, W., & Lewis, M. (2015). The real college debt crisis: How student borrowing threatens financial well-being and erodes the American dream. [Books]. Praeger.
Elliott, W., & Lewis, M. (2015). Transforming 529s into Children’s Savings Accounts: The Promise Indiana Model [Other].
Lewis, M., & Elliott, W. (2015). A Regional Approach to Children’s Savings Accounts: The Case of New England [Other].
Lewis, M., & Elliott, W. (2014). Examining the Canadian Education Savings System and its Implications for U.S. Children’s Savings Account (CSA) Policy [Other]. Assets and Education Initiative.

Social Welfare Events