You made Melissa’s Willamette MBA possible

by Brandy Polo,

  • Melissa Joe in graduation regalia

For Melissa Joe MBA’20, a native of the bustling state capital of Richmond, Virginia and student of global affairs at George Mason University, attending a large university for graduate school was the logical choice.

But a dinner introduced her to Atkinson School alumni and the Willamette MBA program changed her course, and inspired a 2,800-mile journey across the country to attend the Atkinson Graduate School of Management at Willamette University.

While researching Atkinson, Melissa was immediately drawn to the PACE program, the emphasis on consequential learning and the smaller size of the school. Coming from a high school with 2,500 students and a university with an undergrad enrollment of more than 25,000, a smaller, more intimate program was immediately appealing.

“The small class sizes facilitate meaningful relationships with faculty, where they not only know student names, but know us. I wouldn’t get this at a large school,” Melissa says.

You gave Melissa a chance to be here

While small class sizes were certainly a draw, Melissa feared taking on too much debt.

Your annual fund support gave Melissa the financial freedom to focus on her studies without having to take on an extra job during her time in the program. She said if she hadn’t received her scholarship, she wouldn’t have been able to make the journey to Salem at all.

You inspired her to maximize her experience

At Willamette MBA, Melissa took advantage of every opportunity to get involved and make the most of her experience. She served as the president of the Atkinson Student Association, was the student representative for Atkinson on the Board of Trustees and interned at United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley.

As a student representative on the Board of Trustees, Melissa grew as a leader and learned how to advocate for the things that really impact students.

In the same way, her internship was a hands-on learning experience that taught her about problem solving and management under changing circumstances.

Today, Melissa is still using those skills as a member of the Women United group, which tackles issues affecting women in the community.

While Atkinson is ranked by Businessweek and Forbes as one of the “Best Business Schools,” it’s not all business. For Melissa, her experience at Atkinson also helped her build lifelong relationships, both inside and outside of the classroom. Some of Melissa’s fondest memories include the annual Halloween pumpkin carving contest and the traditional float down the Mill Stream during Brownwater.

You’ve turned Passion Into a Career

Now a Willamette MBA graduate, Melissa plans to stay in the Pacific Northwest and work in operations or project management, because her “Only at Willamette” education not only helped her find her passions, but also prepared her to excel in whichever field she chooses.

“The most special thing about the Atkinson MBA program is the impact. Everyone has always been drawn back to Atkinson, talking about their PACE experience or having Mike Hand as their professor. Everyone has an experience that they reflect back on fondly from their experience at Atkinson. For me, floating down the Mill Stream during Brownwater was a crazy experience and I'm glad I got to be a part of it with my class. It was a great bonding experience.”

Note: This article originally appeared in the 2020 Donor Impact Report. Find out more information on how to give to Willamette.

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