UNO professor honored at annual gender equity banquet


Denaya Lewis

Melissa Burke accepts her honor at the annual Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Gender Equity banquet. Photo courtesy of UNO Communications

Gender equity means fairness of treatment for women and men, according to their respective needs. While most people receive this every day without thinking about it, it would not be so easy without trailblazers at the university like professor Melissa Berke, Ph.D.

Berke is an associate dean and professor in the College of Communication, Fine Arts and Media. She has been at UNO for over 26 years and remains an important part of the school. She is the chair of the music department and coordinator of music education. She has taught preschool, elementary and middle school music in Arona, Iowa and Nebraska. She advocates for music education for students with special needs, music as an integral part of the general curriculum and the Orff-Schulwerk approach to music education.

Berke also currently serves on the board of the Great Plains Orff Chapter, the institutional representative for the Nebraska Women in Higher Education Leadership. She is an important part of UNO’s music program and helps out with the General Education Committee, the University Assessment Committee and is co-leader of the Orientation Taskforce.

If that was not enough to highlight her special presence on campus, Berke is also the recipient of the Outstanding Achievement from the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Gender Equity. This is an annual award given to a UNO faculty or staff member that has been at UNO longer than one year and has significantly contributed or brought attention to gender equity issues through advertising, mentoring, education, creative activity/research, service, leadership or any other activities that support gender equity issues.

Berke said she was honored and humbled to be nominated and win this award.

“It was wonderful to be recognized by others for my work, but many other female colleagues paved the way for me to be successful at the university,” Berke said. “Those people who have supported me throughout my 21 years at UNO are the ones who made the difference in my career. I just hope that I am that person for the others that come after me.”

Berke initiated the CFAM Diversity committee during her college years and currently serves as its co-chair. Campus-wide, Berke has been an on-going champion for issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. She has coordinated professional development opportunities for faculty and staff at both UNO and UNMC and founded the Microaggressions Awareness Program offered through the UNO Center for Faculty Excellence.