Melissa Monsalve ’14 finds a quick route from New London to Washington
Not long after receiving her diploma from President Katherine Bergeron, Melissa Monsalve ’14 is now in Washington, D.C., receiving memos from President Barack Obama as a special assistant to the director at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
Monsalve has thrived as one of USGS’s youngest employees. She is also the first presidential appointee in the bureau, aside from the bureau’s director.
The position requires a 30-month commitment, during which Monsalve will work in five separate departments. In her first rotation, she is working as a point of contact for USGS involvement in the California droughts and the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, which revitalizes waterways in populated communities for economic, social and environmental benefits. She is also helping to form a federal committee for the New York City portion of the Urban Waters project, and she is in regular contact with the Office of Water and Science at the Department of the Interior on various additional initiatives.
At the political level, Monsalve is attending weekly meetings of all appointees in the Department of the Interior, participating in White House briefings and getting involved with the minority appointee community, specifically Latino political associations.
Monsalve was appointed to the position through The White House’s college recruitment program. A few weeks before Commencement last spring, Monsalve was still considering her post-graduation options when Dorothy Wang, her career adviser through the College’s four-year career program, invited her to apply for the position. Wang had been contacted by Jonathan McBride ’92, assistant to President Barack Obama and director of presidential personnel, who was looking for highly qualified College students for the recruitment program, which seeks college seniors for positions in Washington.
“It all came along very suddenly, but there was no way I could have turned down an opportunity like this,” said Monsalve.
Wang said Monsalve’s unique academic background — she was a double major in environmental science and sociology, with a minor in dance — and commitment to community service made her a great fit for the position. “It was a no-brainer. This opportunity perfectly aligned with who Melissa is,” said Wang.
Monsalve says her liberal arts education has prepared her well for her new role. She credits USGS research data she collected for her environmental studies classes at the College with readying her for her current work, and a College-funded internship in the office of New York state Sen. Jose Peralta for building political experience.
“The White House is looking for candidates who are well-rounded in terms of their studies, expertise and interests,” Monsalve said. “I’m exercising all aspects of my degree by learning how people are effected by the environmental science my agency analyzes.”
After she completes her assignment with USGS, Monsalve intends to apply for a Fulbright fellowship to document issues of sustainability in South America. She also plans to attend graduate school to focus on urban studies.
September 29, 2014