Michelle Melendez on civic service and social equity work: We all do better when we all do better.

Evaluation Lab News

Posted: Aug 29, 2022 - 12:00am

Michelle Melendez, Director of the City of Albuquerque’s Office of Equity and Inclusion, has had a long career in civic service. As a guest speaker in the Policy Seminar last spring, the MPP students got to accompany her on a special journey throughout her life and career with the aid of pictures, documents, and stories.

Ms. Melendez was young when her father, an UNM Law student, filed and won a lawsuit against the university and the State Bar Association. The lawsuit argued that the administration and structure of the state bar needed to be modified after years of disparate bar passage rates among minority applicants. Ms. Melendez would also regularly accompany her father to the Supreme Court, government offices, and protests. All of this had a tremendous impact on Ms. Melendez, she explained that she “always thought you could fight injustice and you could win.”

Ms. Melendez started her career as a journalist while a student at Manzano High School. From the very beginning, she wrote about issues she cared about and exposed disproportionate impact with her work - who was being harmed and who was being helped. Throughout her journalism career, she saw journalism as a vehicle to expose injustices and as a call to action to the people that can make a positive change.

From journalism, Ms. Melendez went on to earn an MPA, start a community healthcare coalition for healthcare access, and work at the NM Department of Health. During that time her appreciation for data grew and she found her media background very useful to enhance communication to help implement programs and policies. She emphasized to the MPP students that, policy is more than writing and working with lawyers, it’s most importantly in the why, the who is impacted and how, and how you get it implemented.

As the inaugural Director of the City of Albuquerque’s Office of Equity and Inclusion, Ms. Melendez has grown the size and scope of the and implemented many policies to make Albuquerque a role model of equity and social justice. And she is just getting started. She told the students, “We all do better when we all do better.”