Director, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity


Melissa is the Director of Heartland Alliance’s National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity. She steers the team’s policy and systems change efforts by advancing solutions to the systemic issues that drive chronic unemployment.

Melissa’s work has shaped the national discussion and awareness of employment interventions as a key solution to fighting poverty. Melissa shepherded the National Transitional Jobs Network from a small coalition of stakeholders to a nationally recognized project made up of partners in over 36 states and cultivated the transitional jobs strategy into a federally recognized employment solution for addressing the employment needs of men, women, and youth facing chronic unemployment. Her work has grown from leading a single national coalition to developing and leading multiple initiatives. Her expertise has landed her a seat on several national coalitions and she’s written extensively about a range of federal policy and system drivers of chronic unemployment and poverty. Melissa influenced the passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to better serve harder-to-employ jobseekers and has worked to shape implementation of the legislation in several communities nationwide. Most recently, Melissa helped to develop the Creating Pathways for Youth Employment Act which supports the planning and implementation of intensive employment interventions blended with therapeutic approaches in order to support pathways to employment and opportunity for youth most likely to experience trauma and violence in communities. She frequently works alongside federal agencies such as the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Labor, and Department of Justice to advance policy and systems change.

Melissa is an avid runner, spends far too much time in vintage thrift shops, is a #bigfan of twitter, and is a devoted Wolverine football (Go Blue!) and Detroit Tigers baseball fan. Melissa received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and her Master’s from the University of Chicago.

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