Say hello to Melissa Chiappetta, a PLC alumna from the cohort of 1999 and avid outdoor adventurer! She loves to run, play volleyball, ski, cycle, and the list goes on. Her travel stories are also something you don’t want to miss out on. Whether it’s hiking the Inca Trail, meditating with monks in Nepal, rappelling waterfalls, or going on Safaris, Melissa has had experiences like none other. She’s grateful for what she has learned through her travels, seeing resilience and kindness ingrained in human nature.
Her fascination for travel grows from an innate curiosity for other cultures. This passion led to getting her undergraduate degree at CU Boulder in Journalism and Anthropology with hopes of writing about diversity. However, journalism wasn’t fitting, and upon reflecting on a PLC lecture, Melissa switched directions. One influential speaker made her realize there were more direct and efficient ways to make a difference.
She realized she could make a bigger impact by volunteering worldwide and pursuing a masters degree at the University of Georgetown. However, before leaving Colorado, she looked at issues close to home working for the Colorado Office of the State Auditor. As a performance auditor she was able to diversify her leadership experience and examine the strengths and flaws of systems within Colorado. She made changes to improve the foster care system, prisons, healthcare, and ports of entry.
Melissa now has a broader reach as she has her own evaluation consultancy business. She has an impressive list of contracts including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and UNESCO Institute of Statistics. Her work is focused on Sustainable Development Goals, specifically SDG 4.1.1; it is essentially a blueprint made by the United Nations aimed at creating access to quality education for children. To facilitate change, she is leading a process that will allow countries to analyze reading and math learning outcomes to understand where to devote scarce resources. This is guided by her view that education is a human right and, without a quality education, people are unable to build a sustainable future for themselves or their families.
No matter the impact she makes or where her career takes her, Melissa will always remember her experience in PLC. Experiential weekends, student staff, and leading the Colorado Leadership Conference were among her top memories. But mainly, it was the people that made the program. She says the other students challenged her beliefs and pushed her to become a better version of herself. And with that, one piece of advice she would give to the current students is to push yourself out of your comfort zone. She believes taking a job or opportunity that scares you just a little undoubtedly gives you room to grow; she says “we are all more capable than we give ourselves credit for.” Melissa continues to take this advice as she strives to make a difference in her career and make the world a better place.