MELISSA is a proud Hoosier and Fort Wayne native. She hails from a long line of hardworking German and Belgian immigrant families. A family ethos of serving and championing others was instilled in Melissa at a young age. The arts were also emphasized, so it's no coincidence that she and her siblings pursued creative career paths after graduating from R. Nelson Snider High School. Melissa gravitated to cultural anthropology, her brother chose fine arts, and her sister was drawn to journalism.
MELISSA received her undergraduate degree in Political Science from Indiana University-Fort Wayne (1992) while minoring in Spanish and Anthropology. She then attended the University of Texas-San Antonio for a Master's degree in Cultural Anthropology (1996) and years later obtained her doctorate in the same at Michigan State University (2006).
"We have a moral obligation
to serve our community."
What informs Melissa's positions...
Understanding my immigrant heritage.
Raised by educators.
Raised to champion those who can't or don't champion themselves.
Raised by labor-strong middle class families.
Being a single mother.
Living on the economic margins at various times in my life.
Training as a social scientist and viewing persons, places and things objectively.
And, always questioning how I can make a difference.
Class Three Member of...
MELISSA'S CAREER PATH
MELISSA was a university professor for much of her career and enjoyed teaching a great deal. As a social scientist, she liked conducting research and writing, but Melissa's path as an educator changed when a 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti in January, 2010. Her research area was never in Haiti, she knew no Haitians and had never even been to Haiti, but Melissa was touched in an inexplicable way. She organized a city-wide Haitian relief effort a week after the earthquake struck which resulted in the collection of 17 tons of rice, beans, and water. Donations were flown to Port Au Prince courtesy of the State Department and FedEx. After planning this event, she knew my calling was elsewhere. Two years later, Melissa returned to Fort Wayne and forged a new career path.
MELISSA has worked for area non-profits ever since. Serving at-risk communities is extremely gratifying work and as many have said, a 'perfect fit for someone like' Melissa. Her training in culture, research, writing, education, development and public speaking have been tremendous assets for working in the Human Services. "I feel blessed to go to work every day knowing that I'm leading an organization into its next few chapters of helping people where they're at."
And, it's for these very reasons MELISSA ran for Perry Township Trustee in 2018. This elected office offers poor relief and emergency rescue services to township residents - two areas she could not be more supportive of. By running for office, Melissa learned a great deal about herself and about her community. She remains forever grateful for the experience and made many new friends along the way. Civic engagement is "in my blood."