Dr. Mel Michelle Lewis is Vice President for People, Justice, and Cultural Affairs at American Rivers.
In this Executive Leadership role, Dr. Mel provides strategic guidance to American Rivers’ staff and Board as the organization seeks to address systemic environmental injustice that impact clean water for people and nature.
Dr. Mel is a Collaborator with The Art of Change Agency, supporting critical voices and creative visions for sustainable practice, structural change, and social transformation within organizations, institutions, and communities. They also serve as an Affiliated Researcher with the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania and as the WSQ Journal Arts Editor. Their personal, professional, and political commitments are to Black and Indigenous people of color (BIPOC) and overlapping and interlocking queer, trans, nonbinary, intersex, and feminist communities pursuing social and environmental justice. Originally from Bayou la Batre, Alabama, their creative work explores queer of color themes in rural coastal settings.
Previously, Dr. Mel was Director of the Ecosystems, Sustainability, and Justice Program and Faculty Lead/Grants Project Director for the Natural Dye Initiative at Maryland Institute College of Art.
In addition to their ESJ and NDI roles, Dr. Mel was also Associate Professor of Gender/Sexuality & Black/Ethnic Studies and Chair of the Humanistic Studies Department, and Co-Founder of The Space for Creative Black Imagination: An Interdisciplinary Research and Making Institute at MICA.
Dr. Mel served as Director of the transdiciplinary Center for Geographies of Justice and Associate Professor of Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies and Africana Studies at Goucher College. Their roles have also included Associate Professor and Director of Ethnic Studies at Saint Mary’s College of California and Interim Executive director of the National Women’s Studies Association. Dr. Mel completed their M.A. and Ph.D. in Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park in the area of Bodies, Genders, and Sexualities. They hold an M.S. in Women and Gender Studies with a Public Policy concentration from Towson University and a B.A. in Women’s Studies and Sociology from Goucher College. They are currently pursuing an MPP in Environmental Policy at University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.