Adrienne Melendez

Class of 2005
Major/Minor: Sociology

Washington College has the most amazing students and faculty, and I have to say that my memories of the entire experience was incredible.

How has your liberal arts education influenced you? How do you apply your LAE in your current career?

My liberal arts education provided me with a strong foundation for understanding social and environmental issues. It taught me how to think outside the box, apply learning from other disciplines, and to be a quick thinker. In my current career, LAE is important because I must constantly adapt to new situations, develop new tools and resources to support our national program, and build community buy-in with the many organizations and stakeholders that we serve.

Who was your favorite faculty/staff member? Story?

Vicky Sawyer is one of my favorite faculty members. She helped me to cultivate a love of service and to become a servant and transformational leader. She is one of the most positive people that I know, and she would always encourage us to try new ideas and activities. Often, we were able to do things that we never thought were possible because of her leadership and support. Dr. Anderson was always willing to help with service learning, and Sarah Feyerherm was so supportive when I was in SGA. Dr. Cades, Dr. Shivers, Dr. Pabons, and Dr. McColl were some of my favorite professors.

What is your favorite Washington College memory?
There are so many memories that it is difficult to choose just one. I really enjoyed International Week, Earth Day, and Into the Streets. Washington College has the most amazing students and faculty, and I have to say that my memories of the entire experience was incredible.
Did your Senior Capstone Experience have a major influence on your future career or your personal growth? If so, please explain what your SCE entailed and how it influenced who or where you are today.

My SCE was a qualitative study of the experience of Mexican women and immigration. It helped me to secure my first job out of college. It also taught me how to apply the theories that I had learned into a real world session. I am so very thankful to have had the opportunity to conduct independent research as an undergrad student and to have applied critical skills that are now absolutely essential to my work on a national social issue.

Campus Involvement
  • Service Learning Club
  • Student Environmental Alliance
  • Student Government Association
  • International Club
  • The Society of Junior Fellows
  • Alpha Kappa Delta, International Sociology Honors Society
  • ODK, National Leadership Honors Society
  • Sigma Delta Pi, National Hispanic Honors Society
Graduate School:
Penn State University, Masters in Leadership Development
Previous Profile a Career Information:

Adrienne Nash is involved in community development and runs a nonprofit, the Conflict and Mediation Center of Chester County.

After I graduated in 2005, I went to work with the community where I did my thesis (Chester County, PA). My thesis was on the immigration of Mexican women and social networks. I got a job as a case manager at a non-profit, La Comunidad Hispana-The Spanish Community, very close to the women that I worked with during my thesis. For two years, I worked with a variety of Latino individuals and families on issues related to medical case management, housing, life skills, and information and referral. While at La Comunidad, a colleague and I founded a support and service learning group for Latina girls ages 12-18 called GUAPAS (means beautiful in Spanish). GUAPAS-Girls United Achieving Professional Aspirations and Successes. The goal of GUAPAS was to provide a culturally sensitive environment to help girls see that they had a strong future, to explore careers, and to talk about some of the challenges that they had growing up and how they could support each other. I also worked with families that were cases with the county Department of Children, Youth, and Families to provide parenting education. GUAPAS and education were some of my favorite parts of my job. Families have so much strength despite some of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that they face. Much of my work was to educate others about culture and cross cultural communication and understanding. At La Comunidad, I applied the learning from my thesis, my service learning experiences at WAC, and what I learned about the conflict paradigm and symbolic interaction paradigm.

During my second year at La Comunidad, I started my masters in leadership development and Penn State University. At the same time, I was offered a position at the county in community development. I accepted the position and began managing federal, state, and county homeless and housing systems. This position is more administrative, but I love it. I always liked meso-sociology where I could understand the micro but make a bigger impact by creating system change. In my current position, I am able to do this. Last summer, the county received federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding for the federal Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program (HPRP) funded by HUD. I became the project manager of this initiative and was able to create a team to design the program and implement it in Chester County. Although it has been a lot of work, I can see that our system is now transforming. We are creating systemic change. I am inspired that the federal government is also promoting change. The US Interagency Council on Homelessness recently released the U.S. Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. Last week, I was in DC for the National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference where HUD Secretary Donovan and VA Secretary Shinseki spoke on the need for all stakeholders to collaborate to achieve the vision of ending homelessness.

At this time, I have my masters in Leadership Development and a Certificate in Human Resources Management. I want to continue my education and am hoping to pursue a doctorate in strategic leadership. I love community development and am very active in my faith community and the community at large. In my free time, I am a bilingual mediator, a bilingual Family Group Decision-Making Facilitator, a shelter volunteer, a re-entry volunteer, and a harpist. This past October with the help of Penn State’s Program on Social Entrepreneurship and Community Leadership, a group of friends and I founded a non-profit called the Conflict and Mediation Center of Chester County. We continue to grow our organization. I am still active in international work and have a passion for doing peace building in Colombia.

Many of the experiences that I had at WAC directly translated into the work that I am doing now. I am so thankful to have majored in Sociology, which has given me a broad understanding of the world and a passion for serving others.