As a Political Science major with a minor in French and a certificate in Polish and Central European studies, 2002 graduate Melinda Fountain has parlayed what she learned at UR to become a Foreign Service Officer for the United States Department of State.
“When I started at UR I was pre-med, just like over 50 percent of my entering class,” Melinda said. “My experiences in college led me to change my career path.”
Melinda was also a member of student government and the Outside Speakers Committee while working in the Center for Study Abroad. Her activities on campus helped to initiate interest in her chosen career.
What are you doing now?
“I am a Foreign Service Officer for the United States Department of State. To put it more simply, I’m a diplomat for the United States overseas. My first assignment was a short one at the US Mission to the United Nations in New York, and now I’m working at the US Embassy in Warsaw, Poland.”
Is it what you planned to do after you left UR?
“It’s something I considered before I left UR, but it wasn’t what I thought I would do when I started. I took some great political science, language and interdisciplinary courses. My studies abroad also really influenced my career decisions thus far.”
If you could redo anything from your time at UR, what would you change?
“Sure I made some mistakes, but I wouldn’t undo them – making mistakes really is part of the learning experience (it’s not just something people tell you to make you feel better after you make them). I might study more languages, and major rather than minor in French and another language, but overall I feel lucky to have had the many great experiences I did.”
Is there some critical aspect of the school that you think really needs to be addressed?
“In my time at UR, and I expect now as well, students had complaints about campus life ranging from parking to the food. However, I think that an education at UR is really what you make of it – you can either complain that there is no “college town” or that Rochester isn’t as exciting as a bigger city may be, or you can get involved in different organizations, sports and clubs and explore the city and see that it really does have a lot to offer – don’t get preoccupied with what isn’t perfect.”
What good advice do you have for current students?
“Don’t be so focused on what you’ll do after graduation that you overlook opportunities. Take a course in a different area, find an internship, activity or a part time job that interests you but may not be what you thought you were going to do in college. Take advantage of the immense knowledge that UR professors and staff have to offer. And, absolutely, study abroad. It’s a fabulous opportunity and you will learn an immense amount in a short period of time, about yourself as well as the world.”
Schwartz is a member of the class of 2009.