Inside the life of professor Melissa Grey

Melissa Grey is a psychology professor at MCCC, but to understand who she is you have to go beyond her profession.

Grey teaches courses like General Psychology, Psychology of Personality and Adjustment, and Social Psychology at MCCC.

Before MCCC, she taught at Eastern Michigan University and University of Michigan Flint.
Grey said her interest in psychology probably started at home. She remembers listening to her parents and relatives dissect issues.

“My parents would often get together with my aunts and talk about a family problem or a social problem, and they would get sort of analytical about it,” she said.

“They would try to construct stories of how people got to be where they are. In some ways, that’s similar to trying to figure out all the factors that might contribute to a behavior in psychology.”
Grey began to realize that psychology could be a career for her in high school.

“I don’t think I knew I wanted to be a psychologist, or really thought about it, until I was somewhere in the middle of high school. I don’t know if I knew about psychology much before then,” she said.

Before she considered psychology as a career, Grey was just another little girl with a dream….the dream of being a secretary.

“When I was really little, the first job I remember ever wanting was I wanted to be a secretary,” she said.

“I really liked stapling things and typing things, and I would play on the typewriter; this was before computers. I liked organization. I would write fake memos to my family.”

Her childhood began in mid-Michigan, halfway between Flint and Lansing. She was born to Sandra and Robert Grey, and has an older brother, Aaron. Although she was born in Flint, her family moved to a rural area when she was very young.

The peaceful home allowed for a happy childhood, Grey said. Her father, Robert, worked at GM for at least 30 years, but was let go and had to look for other work. Her mother, Sandra, worked as a receptionist and in retail, and was a bank teller for a long time.

They would go on camping trips and spend time with extended family.

“I think I had a pretty good childhood. I grew up with my mom, my dad, and my brother and we were a pretty happy family. Pretty supportive and warm and we did fun things together,” Grey said.

Her brother, Aaron, who is 3½ years older than her, was like any other sibling growing up.

“He was old enough to be significantly smarter than me. It took me a while to figure out how to defend myself appropriately against him,” Grey said.

Her brother did show a protective side.

“If somebody was picking on me at school, he was 3½ years older and much taller and would say something to the person. So I knew he cared about me, even if he teased me a lot,” Grey said.

Grey’s imagination was a key playmate when she was younger, especially in the wooded area behind her childhood home.

“I read a lot when I was a kid, just for fun, and so I would imagine being in lots of other places,” she said, “There were no kids around where I grew up, and so I would often wish that I lived in a city or a town.”

Grey described the forest behind her home that served as a canopy beneath the tall pine trees.

“I had like a whole enchanted fairyland back there,” she said.

As busy as she is, Grey said she wants children, but it’s not something she feels the need to do now.

“I don’t feel like it’s important to me to have my own biological children, but I would like to foster kids,” she said.

“I’d also like to be really well prepared for it and I would like to be home more often if I’m going to do that.”

Everyone has things that makes them feel uncomfortable, but Grey’s is a bit different – not being able to help someone that she cares about is what bothers her most.

“One thing that tends to make me uncomfortable is when people close to me have problems or a need that either I can’t help with, or they won’t let me help with. So that sense of, like, I don’t have control over the situation, or there’s nothing I can do, that sort of helpless feeling. I do not enjoy that,” Grey said.

Grey’s goal for the students who take her classes is a simple one – to help them gain skills that they can use later in life.

“I think most of the time my main goal is to help people develop skills so that they can know what they want, or need to know.”

Grey says that psychology can help people understand things that they’re interested in. This can encourage them to figure out more than what they thought they could.

“They can become much better consumers and users of that information and then have better lives, hopefully,” Grey said.

Grey is busy on campus outside of class. She is co-adviser of two clubs, the Psychology Interest Group (PIG), and the Gay Straight Alliance, (GSA).

One of her colleagues, Tyra Rosinski, a support liaison for the Information Systems Department, said that one thing no one else would know about Grey is that she likes to wear crazy socks.

“She has a pleasant and determined demeanor that reflects in all she does on campus, from being a voice of LGBTQ issues in panel discussions, to being the co-adviser of two clubs,” Rosinski said. 

Grey’s colleague, Psychology professor Patrick Wise, said her wicked sarcasm is something that will zing you every time.

“She can be wickedly sarcastic. She can at times with her deadpan delivery zing you more than you’d think you could be zinged,” Wise said.

One of the courses that Grey teaches, Psychology of Personality and Adjustment, is learning about yourself as a person.

Grey has worked as a clinical psychologist. The training process she went through has helped her in her work, diagnosing some with mental disorders.

“I am a clinical psychologist, so some of my training and my work life has been in meeting people who have questions or concerns about their mental health and diagnosing mental health conditions,” Grey said.

Grey has been at MCCC four years.

“I was really excited when I got this job. I had gone on several interviews; I had a couple of offers I wasn’t really certain about,” she said.

“Then when I got word that I could be hired here, and they were offering me the position, I was genuinely really excited.”

Wise described his impression of Grey when he met her.

“My first impression of her during the hiring process was intelligent, well spoken,” he said.

Wise said Grey was at ease with herself and the interview. She projected a sense of genuineness.

“Sometimes, when people come into a new situation, they try very carefully to match what’s socially expected, so it may come off as a little artificial,” he said.

“Melissa did not come off that way; she came off as being, this is who she really is.”