The University of West Georgia’s First Lady, Dr. Tressa Kelly, is a champion of finding one’s truth. She is a proponent of empowering students to find their passion – and themselves – during their university experience.

Dr. Kelly spent her childhood years in Michigan, living only a half-hour away from the hometown of Dr. Brendan Kelly, UWG’s eighth president. As the daughter of two educators, she always felt comfortable in the classroom, earning a Ph.D. in communication with a focus on rhetorical studies from Wayne State University and receiving her master’s degree in communication and a bachelor’s degree in communication and theatre arts from Eastern Michigan University.

Dr. Kelly coached collegiate speech and debate for more than a decade. At the University of West Florida, she served as the director of speech and debate and basic course director for the course of public speaking.

Having taught for 24 years at the collegiate level – in an array of undergraduate and graduate courses, including public speaking, advanced public speaking, research methods, gender communication, rhetorical criticism, social movements and intercultural communication – Dr. Kelly always felt like she belonged in higher education.

Dr. Tressa Kelly

Dr. Tressa Kelly
Alumni House

Being First Lady aligns well with that passion, as she enjoys bridging the university and its students, faculty, staff, and alumni with the West Georgia community. She is also deeply interested in community indicators as they relate to community health and wellness, education, food and housing insecurity, and the Tanner Foundation Board of Trustees.

“A public university campus belongs to the community, and I love to remind people that they’re always welcome to visit our campus for the first time or to come back and find out what’s new. It’s a place for everyone to learn and grow – not just our students.”

Dr. Kelly is married to the University of West Georgia’s eighth president, Dr. Brendan B. Kelly. The Kellys reside in Carrollton and have three children – Bree (who recently married Andrew Luckey), Liam, and Kieran – and a Great Dane named Georgia. In addition to being a mother, Dr. Kelly has also trained as a doula through DONA International and is an avid reader and yoga lover. She enjoys spending time outside and watching sports – especially basketball.

Areas of Service

The Kelly Family

Dr. Tressa Kelly's UWG Initiatives

Children’s Book

First Lady with book

First Lady Tressa Kelly had a vision to create a children's book. This seed of an idea quickly grew into reality, with a book written, illustrated, and produced by our talented staff at UWG. The story shows what happened when young Wolfie visited our university on a school field trip. Through his adventures – and a couple of friendly students he meets along the way – he finds out what it means to really be a Wolf.

All proceeds from the sales of “Wolfie Finds His Howl” - and its extended product line - will go directly into the UWG scholarship fund so that generations of Wolves will benefit from the educational experience we provide.

Wolfie Finds His Howl (PDF)

Blue Coats Ambassadors

The Blue Coats at the University of West Georgia are a select group of student leaders from across campus involved in a diverse range of activities and pursuing various educational disciplines. These students love the University of West Georgia and have stories to tell about their experiences at this institution.

While serving the university, the Blue Coats have the unique opportunity to be mentored and advised by the university First Lady and President.

Dr. Tressa Kelly's Initiatives

Student Poll Workers

The First Lady collaborates with local officials to create civic, community, and public service volunteer opportunities for UWG students. This engaging process includes extensive training prior to student assignments to specific area precincts. Students learn to assist others and to reiterate the value of participation in a democratic process.

Alumni House Flower Garden: Telling the Past and Tilling the Future

Did you know that many floral varieties were grown on campus by UWG First Lady Ingram's mother? Our current First Lady has invested energy and enthusiasm in learning about one past First Lady's gardening history. From peonies, gardenias, and phlox, to tulips and violets, the Alumni House garden is a work in progress through collaboration with UWG public history and landscaping staff members.

Accelerate Your Performance

To become a first-choice University requires winning the hearts and the minds of young people. While this is no easy feat, Universities are filled with untapped talent and resources. That's what Dr. Tressa Kelly, the First Lady of the University of West Georgia, realized quickly after getting on campus. As a result, an incredible project was born to benefit future students and build on the history and story of UWG.

Find Your Pack & Find Your Voice Podcast