Alumni Spotlight Melanie Mayock (MUP ’14)

Image of Melanie on a bridge with trees in the background

What has your educational journey looked like?
M: I got my undergraduate degree in political science at Western Washington University in 1998 and at that time, I wasn’t thinking about graduate school so I went straight into working with environmental advocacy groups. After this experience I decided to focus on transportation and land use and began concurrent degrees with MUP (Master of Urban Planning) /MPA (Master of Public Administration) programs. It was great to get experience from both programs but the MUP degree’s focus on land use and transportation has a helpful backdrop to build upon.

Can you give me a brief overview of what it is you do in your work?
M: I’ve been at Sound Transit for 3.5 years as a Community Engagement Specialist.
My role is to connect the community with the decisions Sound Transit is looking to make as we expand transit. This includes asking for public input, organizing presentations to community groups, and having booths at fairs and festivals.

What do you do with any feedback you get and how do you build/maintain positive relationships with the community?
M: We always share back what we heard from the community, then use the feedback as one of the inputs into decision-making (along with technical, legal, and financial considerations).

We are working to build long-term relationships with community-based organizations that serve historically underrepresented groups, including people of color, low-income folks, immigrants, and people with limited English proficiency. It’s a long-term process to build trust.

What most motivates you to do what you do?
M: I grew up in West Seattle and used to take Metro’s route 54 back in the 80s. I love the freedom of public transit and the sense of community it provides. I’m also excited to see the light rail progress; I moved to Capitol Hill a few years ago, and I see first-hand what light rail can do for quality of life in our communities.

Also, I love working with people, and being able to answer questions or build excitement for transit makes me feel great.

What experiences have been the most impactful for you outside of UDP?
M: My interest in land use started when I was about 24, on a trip to New Orleans. A friend showed me around the city, pointing out building and neighborhood features. He asked how it felt to walk down the streets, and I realized that the characteristics of the buildings and their locations made a huge difference. It was an eye-opening experience. After that, I went home and read Jane Jacobs etc. and it snowballed from there.

Do you have any advice for students?
M: Make your thesis small: it’s not a reflection of who you are.

Pursue an internship!

Pay attention to what’s happening locally on urban planning issues and attend meetings! Get involved in the community.

Network, network, network! Some students might feel shy about approaching someone they don’t know, but look at them as your colleague. People are excited to talk to you, especially the UDP Professionals Council.

Apply for jobs even if you don’t think you’re qualified! Especially for women: believe in yourself and go for it.

I’d like to talk about your gift to our department’s Equity Fund. Can you talk a little bit about why you decided to make this gift?
M:Working in the field, it’s obvious we have a long way to go in terms of equity and including underserved communities in decisions. Having people of color represented in the profession is one important step, and bringing more students of color through the MUP program is one way to help get us there. It’s an investment to help do a better job in how we plan for and with everybody.

Anything else you’d like to share/add about your experience with the department and or college?
M:It was a special time and Gould Hall will always have a place in my heart. No one else has a happy hour like CBE, and that ability to connect with friends and colleagues is truly special.