Hi, I'm Melissa


I am a proud Hoosier and Fort Wayne native. I hail from a long line of hardworking German and Belgian immigrant families. A family ethos of serving and championing others was instilled in me at a young age. The arts were also emphasized in my familial home, so it is no coincidence that my siblings and I pursued creative career paths after graduating from R. Nelson Snider High School. I gravitated to cultural anthropology, my brother chose fine arts, and my sister was drawn to journalism. 


I received my undergraduate degree in Political Science from Indiana University-Fort Wayne (1992) while minoring in Spanish and Anthropology. I then attended the University of Texas-San Antonio for a Master's degree in Cultural Anthropology (1996) and years later obtained my doctorate in the same at Michigan State University (2006). These accomplishments do not compare to being a single mom, though. Sedona has enriched my life beyond measure and gives me great hope about the future. 


I was a university professor for much of my career and enjoyed teaching a great deal. It was wonderful to see students critical thinking abilities grow. As a social scientist, I also liked conducting research and writing. But, my path as an educator changed when a 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti in January, 2010. My research area was never in Haiti (My area of specialization was Native Americans). I knew no Haitians and I had never even been to Haiti, but I was touched in an inexplicable way. I ended up conducting 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, I knew my calling was elsewhere. Two years later I returned to Fort Wayne and forged a new career path.

I have 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' me. My 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 am leading an organization into its next few chapters of helping people where they are at.  


And, it is for these very reasons I also ran for Perry Township Trustee in 2018. This elected office offers poor relief and emergency rescue services to township residents - two areas I couldn't be more supportive of. By running for office, I learned a great deal about myself and about my community. I am forever grateful for this experience and made many new friends along the way. Civic engagement will always remain extremely important to me. 


We have a moral obligation to serve our community.

I could have rode out my career in academia as it was rewarding to teach young bright minds and to do the research that I loved.

But, I began to itch.

I saw many first generation students balancing full-time jobs, parenting, and going to school full-time. I recall a male student who took an evening class with me that came to class with a two liter bottle of Mountain Dew from which drank directly from. Now, I tried to make lectures interesting, but there were some dry ones, so it did not bother me. And, his Mountain Dew helped him just like coffee does for me most days. 

His tenacity and that of my other non-traditional students was impressive.

I have always connected with those who struggle. 


We all have gifts and the onus is on us to share those gifts with others.


My life has not been smooth sailing - hardly. 

My personal and economic setbacks have been situational,

but they were no less painful. 

This is why I am firmly committed to helping reduce the constraints of poverty.

I feel morally guided to use my experiences to help others.

And, my commitment to others will remain forever unchanged.  

Melissa Rinehart, Phd

Cultural Anthropologist

Community Advocate

Committed Volunteer

Critical Thinker


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Fort Wayne, IN

"Everyone can give some of their time, talent, & treasure to a cause."