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Inspiring students

A professor pushed Michelle Melendres ’03 to aim higher. Now she’s doing the same to her students.

August 30, 2019

FACULTY SPOTLIGHT: Q&A with Michelle Melendres, EdD

By Sarah Scopio

Michelle Melendres ’03, EdD, inspires students to pursue their dreams, as Mount professors once did for her. As an associate professor of social work and director of the Honors Program, she leads an international social work course that has traveled around the globe studying social welfare policies in foreign countries.

What kind of student is in the Honors Program at the Mount?

Honors Scholars are the epitome of unstoppable students. They truly reflect their love for learning. I am inspired by students who take their education extremely seriously and enjoy it.

Tell us about the Honors Program at Mount Saint Mary’s.

This year, there are 60 Honors Scholars in the program. It’s a robust program that reflects best practices in honors education across the nation – one that can recruit and retain high-achieving students at the University. Honors Scholars have extracurricular requirements, capstone projects and an honors thesis, in addition to co-curricular requirements.

Besides directing the Honors Program, you teach social work courses. Tell us about the international trips you take students on.

I teach an international social work class where I take students abroad each year. In 2018, we went to Brazil and Argentina to study the relationship of poverty and privilege (examining the impact of class divisions and inequities in those countries). This year, we traveled to Norway, Denmark and Sweden. Scandinavian countries are known to be among the top five places to live, and it has a lot to do with social welfare policies: maternity leave, healthcare, education, etc. We were able to observe it firsthand.

What does it mean to you to be a professor at your alma mater?

First, I’m extremely invested in making sure I keep the legacy going so that when our students graduate, the image people have of the Mount is positive. Also, as a Mount undergraduate, I was mentored in a way that embraced my minority status and the fact that I was a woman. I attended Columbia School of Social Work because a Mount faculty member told me, “I think you should apply to an Ivy League.” Somebody did that for me. I came back to the Mount and now it’s my job to be that champion for our students. Teachers are your champions. When they believe in you, and push you, it makes all the difference.