Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Alum Profile: Ryan Mello '01

When did you graduate from UPS?

May, 2001

What have you been doing since graduation?

Right after graduation I worked on Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma’s campaign. We won. Then I went on to do the AmeriCorps program here in Pierce County with the local United Way. I coordinated the youth program, helping to engage high school and middle school aged youth to a lifetime of service to the community.

I’ve worked in politics for a while after that, managing and consulting on political campaigns. I was the chief of staff for a legislator in Olympia for 2 years and am now the Conservation Director for the Cascade Land Conservancy – the regional land trust, responsible for preserving treasured landscapes from the slopes of Mount Rainier to downtown Tacoma.

Why and how did you decide to take the career path you did?

I really have stumbled upon it. When I entered UPS as a freshman, I thought I wanted to enter the medical field. After two semesters of Organic Chemistry, I realized that lab science was not for me and I was not happy studying those subjects so intensely. Through the course of fulfilling my cores, I stumbled upon a P&G course that really hit me. I was engaged, intense and happy.

The transition out of college was a little rough for me as I didn’t make good plans for my departure, but at the same time understood I did not want to work for “corporate America” or be stuck in a cubicle for my days.

The AmeriCorps program was quite interesting to me as it was a way to give back to my community, gain more leadership skills and earn funds for future, advanced education. It really allowed me an opportunity to transition out of college at a slower pace in a way that was meaningful to me. It allowed me the flexibility to stumble upon other civic engagement projects like running political campaigns and getting to understand civic life in Tacoma-Pierce County more thoroughly.

Are there any aspects of the Politics and Government major or your UPS education in general that have served you particularly well?

The emphasis on reading critically has been the most beneficial. The caliber of the reading has given me an advantage in the workplace because of its intensity and relevance. The rigor of the program has truly prepared me to operate at a high level in the workplace and translate the skills to political organizing, communication in professional environments and working independently as well as with others to achieve a meaningful goal.

Do you have any advice about what our students should make certain they do (or don’t do!) while still in school?

Do what makes you happy and seems meaningful in your life! Study abroad if you want to (I didn’t, but did many activities during my career that were very important to me). Don’t pursue a degree or career that seems plain uninteresting or unimportant to you. Don’t go to graduate school right after undergrad simply because you think you are out of options. There are countless things you can do to slowly transition out of college to ground yourself i.e. AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, work for a non-profit, volunteer or get paid work on a political campaign.

Do whatever you can to not get stuck in a rut. Take challenging classes and take classes from a broad cross-section of professors because you will quickly learn the communication styles that resonate with you best.

Do you have any advice about what our students should be thinking about as they consider their careers or further education?

Use your time in college to weed out the experiences you like and don’t like. Join a club or organization and relate it to something you think you might want to do in the future i.e. non-profit work in a particular field, political organizing, etc.

Intern or volunteer during the summer to gain different experiences that will prepare you better for your transition out of college.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your professors and other mentors about all your options. I was and still am confused about what advanced degree is right for me: law school, MPA or something else. Professors have a lot of insight – ask them to discuss your options with you.

Any other words of wisdom, or important questions I haven’t asked?

Take full advantage of UPS. You or someone you know are paying a ton of cash for you to get a top-notch education. So,

• Read the most you can to be as prepared as possible for class – it will make the lecture/discussion that much more interesting.
• Participate in as many activities ASUPS or others put on – they are excellent and will broaden your horizons.
• Write a plan for attacking the writing of your thesis and stick to it – you will be much happier when you plan and execute your plan instead of crunching such an important piece of work in to 3 weeks or less because of bad procrastination.

Ryan is too modest to mention that he served as UPS Student Body President, and currently serves in elected office as one of five Commissioners for Metro Parks here in Tacoma. Ryan is a great resource if you want to know more about running campaigns, running for office, and getting involved in local politics.