Dr. Tressa Kelly taught for 20 years as a college professor before embarking on this new adventure alongside her husband, UWG President Kelly. Although the first few months surrounding their arrival at UWG was challenging because of the pandemic, Kelly has made the campus her new home.
Before transitioning into her role at UWG, Kelly had the time to acquire experience as the first lady of University of South Carolina Upstate (USC Upstate). Now that she is the UWG first lady, she is eager to get involved with the UWG community.
“I’m always going to be on campus and getting involved,” said Kelly. “It’s not my job to run campus. It’s not my job to make decisions for the campus, but I do think of myself as someone who is a role model or an ambassador for the university—somebody who connects the university to the town—so maybe I can help students in that.”
She began her work weeks ago when she attended and practiced outdoor yoga with a few students. She will continue to engage with students by attending sporting events, after parties for athletics and theatre productions, where she can communicate her support. Next month she is attending a brunch for presidential scholars to recognize students’ achievements.
“If you see me on campus, I’m going because I’m genuinely interested,” said Kelly. “I’m interested in athletics. I’m interested in theater and arts, and I’m interested in going to the lectures. If you see me there, it’s because I want to be there.”
At USC Upstate Kelly hosted an author spotlight event that prompted discussion on immigration. Her other interests include social movements and gender.
“Two years ago we did the Period Projects at USC Upstate,” said Kelly. “We brought student leaders from around the campus—whether it’s sororities, athletics, philanthropic organizations or just students who wanted to get involved—and we created packages of femine sanitary and hygiene products for those who are at risk or homeless, and we distributed them throughout the community.
“We created over 1,000 packets, and those are meaningful things that we can get together, and we can do together to learn and grow,” continued Kelly. “In the meantime, I’ll be keeping my eyes open and listening to people as they say what else they would like to see brought to campus.”
Her desire to engage is directed to faculty and staff as well. With experience as a professor, Kelly understands how important and vital faculty members are to campus. Though she is unable to teach on the campus due to USG policies, she plans to attend lectures and faculty events to show support.
“It’s making sure that people know in an intimate, one-on-one way that we see what they’re doing, and we value it,” said Kelly.