Pitzer Spotlights

Melissa Macias ’08: 2008-09 California Senate Fellow
A Realist with Hope

Melissa Macias

Just weeks after graduating from Pitzer, Melissa Macias ’08 faced a formidable panel of ten professors, senatorial representatives and program directors in order to earn a nationally competitive California Senate Fellowship.

“The first two minutes of the interview were incredibly nerve-wracking,” Macias said. “But once we started talking, the conversation felt comfortable—I was confident in all my answers.”

Bombarded with probing questions such as, “What is your stance on politicians’ term limits, budget cuts or environmental laws?” Macias was completely in her element.

“I feel that Pitzer prepared me for these types of intense interviews,” Macias said. “My professors always expected me to speak my mind.”

A self-designed Criminal and Legal Studies major, Macias aspires to a career in criminal or environmental law.

But before applying to law school—she is most interested in attending University of California, Berkeley or Lewis and Clark—Macias values her fellowship for the experience that she will gain working directly for a California senator.

“In October, I will move to Sacramento to begin an intensive training program in policy-making,” Macias said. “After that, each of the eighteen fellows will choose the senators we most want to work with and interview directly with them.”

Having written her undergraduate thesis on environmental racism and legislation, Macias is most excited about having the opportunity to shape environmental policy.

“For my thesis I studied the dynamic created when large corporations infiltrate impoverished communities,” Macias said. “It is not uncommon for them to build toxic waste dumps in residential areas, and there is nothing that the people can do. It’s a horrible injustice.”

Motivated by past successful litigation, Macias is determined to empower people who have historically been unable to fight for themselves.

“During my time at Pitzer I studied abroad in Costa Rica and Ecuador,” Macias said. “In Ecuador, I wrote a dissertation on the effect oil companies had on the indigenous people and wildlife in the Amazon. As awful as these things are, they are battles that need to be fought.”

In addition to her research, Macias believes that her active involvement in campus organizations such as Pitzer Student Senate, PAct (Pitzer’s student activities committee) and the Latino Student Union has made her a strong leader and role model.

Originally attracted to Pitzer for its dedication to social responsibility, Macias believes that the school helped foster her already-budding social conscience.

“Pitzer sends more than sixty percent of its students abroad to show them that there’s a world outside of our Southern California utopia,” she said. “Now I want to use that understanding to bring about change.”

—Liz Hedrick ’09