Melissa's research focuses on the intersection of politics and religion as she uses the various lenses of political, cultural, philosophical, and religious beliefs to examine how these forces shape people's lives, their worldviews, and their moral and ethical decisions. Melissa believes that by having a deeper understanding of what motivates a particular group, politically and spiritually, we can see how people's decision-making processes are shaped. From this information, new out-of-the-box approaches to public policy can be developed.
Melissa holds a B.A. in International Development Studies and Environmental & Geography Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She has visited 25 countries on five continents and had the unique opportunity as an American to study, work, and live in Sweden for 14 years. While in Sweden, she studied socio-cultural anthropology at the Stockholm University, engaged in international philanthropic charity work, and developed age-appropriate education initiatives with The British International School.
Prior to starting her M.A. studies, Melissa was the Senior Program Manager of the UCLA Center for the Study of Religion, and the Student Affairs Officer for the UCLA Study of Religion Interdisciplinary Program. Here, her work focused on "promoting the exploration of religious ideas, practices, and institutions within human societies," while interfacing with the world's experts in comparative religion. As an academic advisor, she guided students on how best to navigate their academic careers.
Before Melissa's work at UCLA, she served as the Associate Director of the Daniel Pearl Foundation with its mission of "promoting mutual respect and understanding among diverse cultures through journalism, music, and dialogue." The Foundation is a nonprofit NGO that gained national attention when President Barack Obama signed the Daniel Pearl Freedom of Press Act of 2009 into law. The Foundation is an Associate Member of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN ECOSOC).
Other professional experiences include work with the UCLA Health System, specifically in the Department of Family Medicine Research Unit, and with the UCLA Blum Center on Poverty and Health in Latin America.
Melissa has always shown her commitment to contributing to a future with a mature and high-minded vision for a better humanity. Through her past work experiences, Melissa has been instrumental in bridging cultural awareness and understanding through the development of educational programming and support for capacity building initiatives. Her future aims are to create and implement public policy changes through fostering mutual respect, cooperation, and dialogue among individuals and communities seeking to find common ground.
Melissa is a native English speaker, speaks Swedish at mid-level, and is currently a student of Hebrew.