Professor, artistic director, volunteer, conference founder and choreographer are all titles that make up an incredible resume. For Dr. Michelle Filling-Brown, associate professor and chair of the English department at Cabrini College, these are only a few titles that offer a glimpse into her fast-paced, cinematic life.
As a student at West Chester University, Filling-Brown was involved in every opportunity that came her way, from the honors program, dance, theater, resident assistant program and more. At one point, she was unsure if her passions and dreams would come to fruition.
“There were moments where I thought, ‘Is this what I should be doing?’”
Filling Brown said, “There were some professors saying that I would struggle to find a job. Again, my whole mantra of dreaming is I don’t need a job for everyone, I just need a job for me.”
Her unique brand of confidence and charisma has stayed with her as she continues to make an indelible impact on the Cabrini community.
During her time as a graduate student at the University of Delaware, Filling-Brown decided to compete in pageants. Filling-Brown wanted an outlet to dance and to earn scholarships.
The pageant world was not all backstabbing girls in sparkly gowns sabotaging each other’s makeup bags. In fact, Filling-Brown made a lifelong best friend, Katie, who graduated from the master’s program.
“There are a lot of stereotypes that I think can be broken in terms of who’s participating,” Filling-Brown said. The professor shattered stereotypes and further developed her critical thinking and career skills.
As for the best takeaway from the pageant world, Filling-Brown found ways to market herself to employers.
“The biggest [benefit] was interview skills for the job market. I thought, sort of arrogantly at 23, that I had the world figured out. The reality is that I don’t think at any age we have the world figured out,” Filling-Brown said. From the experience, Filling-Brown developed her views and answered tough interview questions with the finesse of a pageant queen.
After grad school, Filling-Brown arrived at Cabrini in 2008 and became involved right away. Filling-Brown said, “Dr. Stretton, who was the director at the time, sniffed out in my first month here that I was a dancer and he asked, ‘Can you choreograph?”’
Ever since, Filling-Brown has made dances come to life on stage.
As a classically-trained dancer, Filling-Brown helped to develop an alumni chapter for her West Chester dance company, Dance Production Workshop. The dancers share their passion and perform in an annual showcase to raise money for a scholarship.
Filling-Brown was recently named as the new artistic director of the theatre department. In this role, she hopes to create more opportunities for all students to be involved in theatre. Every year, she teaches a scriptwriting class where entries are submitted and the top three are performed.
As a professor, Filling-Brown is greatly involved in the first-year experience and living and learning communities. In 2014, Filling-Brown received the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching. In 2013, she was awarded a grant from the Katherine Alexandra Foundation. The grant enabled Filling-Brown to develop the National Undergraduate Conference on Body Image as well as a new major and minor program in Gender and Body Studies.
“We need to always be looking within and be defining ourselves and not be defined by the outside world that is telling us we are not good enough. It’s so important for young women to know their self-worth and know what they can do to be changing the world,” Filling -Brown said.
Filling-Brown’s chic office is filled with rich, amethyst-colored chairs and a matching purple sign above her desk spelling out “Dream.”
“My mantra is the Eleanor Roosevelt quote, ‘The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams,”’ the professor said.
Filling-Brown embodies the principles of hard work and leadership. Reflecting back on her time in college, she admits that she changed dramatically at West Chester through leadership opportunities. Filling-Brown approaches every task with an excellent work ethic.
Free time is hard to find as Filling-Brown jokes around with her husband Pat that they will “collapse under the Christmas tree” come winter break. Her husband is just as busy and both are incredibly supportive of each other. Filling-Brown enjoys spending time with friends and family as well as volunteering at church.
For college students, Filling-Brown suggests getting involved in as many things as you can. “Those relationships are something that last a long time.”
In terms of networking and fostering those relationships, Filling-Brown advises students to “always make sure you are building relationships with people.”
“I think students think making a connection is on LinkedIn or social media, and yes, social media is important, but relationship building is being with human beings and being kind to everyone that you come across and making sure that you always leave people with a really positive impression of yourself.”