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Melissa Sharp Recognized for Outstanding Extension Work 

Melissa Sharp

Melissa Sharp, associate director of Zeis Textiles Extension in the Wilson College of Textiles, was recognized for her work in extension in Spring of 2021. 

She received the 2019 Outstanding Extension Award from NC State University, which recognizes excellence in extension, engagement and economic development activities by faculty and staff and parallels the NC State Outstanding Teacher Awards. 

Sharp joined the Wilson College in 2010 and served as the business development coordinator before being promoted to associate director in 2019. As associate director, she works directly with state economic developers to recruit textile companies to North Carolina. Her work provides vital employment opportunities for Wilson College students and North Carolina citizens. Many of these opportunities are in rural and underprivileged areas across the state. She has represented the college on numerous economic development projects that have added more than 700 jobs and more than $50 million in capital investment in the North Carolina economy during the past five years. 

Developing partnerships with industry trade organizations and creating educational partnerships are key elements of her work. Among her many accomplishments is her work with Techtextil North America, the largest textiles trade show in the US that attracts participants from all over the world, which culminated with NC State being named the first official university partner of the show and made Raleigh the host of the 2019 trade show. This effort allowed Wilson College faculty and extension staff to provide training to industry attendees and for more than 200 college students, faculty and staff to attend Techtextil and brought 300 industry professionals to the Wilson College for an open house and reception. The partnership also helped Techtextil more than double participation from the 2017 show.

In response to the current pandemic, Sharp was able to network with manufacturers to help create supply chain databases and assist them in changing from existing products to manufacturing PPE. In furtherance of these efforts, she liaised with multiple agencies to disseminate knowledge and create guidance documents, and developed a free PPE webinar series, delivered over 10 weeks by instructors from Wilson College, College of Sciences and industry to more than 1,900 participants, in conjunction with trade organizations Industrial Fabrics Association International, SEAMS, and Sewn Products Equipment & Suppliers of the Americas (SPESA). 

In addition to her associate director position, Sharp is co-chair of the Rohde Women’s Leadership Initiative steering committee at NC State and chair of the sustainability and staff awards committees. She previously received the Outstanding Extension Award in 2013 and was nominated for the NC State’s Award for Excellence in 2019. She received her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from NC State and is currently working on a master’s degree in textile chemistry.

When asked about the importance of textiles, Sharp responded, “I believe that textiles can help solve grand challenges; from plastics pollution to access to clean water and from the runway to the operating room, textiles are consistently at the forefront of innovative solutions and life-saving products. Through my work at Wilson College, I am privileged to act as a bridge to bring our expertise together with industry colleagues to advance the basic knowledge and research that enable these solutions to be developed on a large scale.”