Melinda Lewis

Melinda Lewis
  • Professor of Practice
  • Director, Center for Community Engagement and Collaboration


Melinda Lewis is a Professor of Practice in the School of Social Welfare at the University of Kansas. Her teaching and course development are concentrated primarily in the School’s graduate program, particularly within macro social work and policy courses. In her faculty role, Ms. Lewis provides advising and mentorship to students, alumni, and community partners to support their capacities related to community organizing, policy analysis, and advocacy and teaches in traditional, blended, and online formats. She is also the Director of the School’s Center on Community Engagement and Collaboration, with responsibility in the areas of public scholarship and community engagement with key constituencies. This role builds on Melinda’s decade of work with nonprofit organizations to enhance their strategic communications, advocacy strategy development and execution, and macro social change efforts. To engage social work students around the country in preparing for effective practice, Ms. Lewis co-authors a widely used strengths-based social policy text (Social Policy for Effective Practice) and serves as editor for The New Directions in Social Work series. For five years, Ms. Lewis was Assistant Director of the Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion, now based at the University of Michigan. At AEDI, she co-authored three books about wealth inequality, student debt, and policies to make education an equitable ladder of upward mobility. These publications were culminations of Ms. Lewis’ responsibility for translating research on the effects of early children’s assets into materials with direct policy implications and media appeal, supporting scholarship around economic mobility and wealth creation, and advancing the field of Children’s Savings Accounts. Before joining the KU faculty, Ms. Lewis spent more than a decade in policy advocacy, community organizing, and strategic communications, working on economic justice and human rights at the local, state, and federal levels. Her service to the University and the community has included catalyzing progress on immigrant and human rights, Chairing the Board of Directors of Kansas Action for Children, the state’s child advocacy organization, and leading environmental justice initiatives in the Kansas City region.


MSW, Washington University in St. Louis


Poverty and economic inequality, social change, strategies for effective policy advocacy, anti-oppressive community engagement approaches, public scholarship strategies and impacts, and advocacy capacity-building for individuals and social service organizations.