2017-Valerie Melson

Valerie Melson

First Major:  Neuroscience

Minor:          Health and Life Sciences


300 Word Statement

I have grown to cherish the Lafayette ideal of collective excellence. The sense of community on campus is palpable. At our best moments, we cheer each other on at Laf-Lehigh, wave signs standing in solidarity during protests, and edit friends’ papers late into the night simply because this is what community means to us. I was fortunate to be invited into this community as a Posse Scholar and have spent my college career attempting to live up to this honor through participating in numerous thought-provoking activities and working as a Resident Advisor and in Recreation Services.  My success is laden with the imprints of the Lafayette community that have helped make everything I’ve done possible. 

The Lafayette ideal is embodied by the student who dedicates their college career to advocating on behalf of their fellow students, promoting intellectual discourse around difficult topics, creating spaces for others to feel at home, and bringing the community together around the common goal of equity. Through membership in Kaleidoscope, the development of student activism, and strong coalition building, I have worked to unite this campus so that every student feels as though he or she belongs and is receiving institutional support from Lafayette. I will forever cherish the memories of working with fellow students to promote campus engagement and social change through discussions with one another, faculty, and the administration. I have helped our community navigate difficult topics, such as #MoreThanMizzou and the creation of the List of Concerns, showing that we can accomplish so much when this community unites for a worthy cause. 

To uphold the Lafayette ideal, a student must carry our values both on and off campus. By learning about Public Health policies in the US and abroad and by choosing a career path that will allow me to promote more equity and access to healthcare, I will take what I have started at Lafayette and carry it forward for the rest of my life. It is through these initiatives, dedication to social justice, various leadership roles, academic successes, and community building that I have tried my best to honor and live up to the Lafayette College ideal.


Academic Activities/Awards – Total Years Involved

  • Posse Merit Based Leadership Scholarship (4)

I am honored and humbled to be a part of Posse DC 8.  The Posse Leadership Scholarship is a four-year full tuition scholarship awarded to 10 students from Washington, DC and New York City on behalf of Lafayette College and the Posse Foundation.  Scholars are selected based on their leadership ability and overall motivation to succeed and then placed on campus to serve as catalysts for increased individual and community development.

  • Dean’s List (2)

I am proud to have made Dean’s List Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, and Fall 2016.  Dean’s List is awarded to students achieving at least a 3.60 during the semester.

  • National Institutes of Health Post Baccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award (1)

I have been accepted into the lab of Susan Moir, PhD to conduct HIV research for one year following my graduation from Lafayette College.

  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute Exceptional Research Opportunities Program (EXROP) (1)

I was nominated for the HHMI EXROP Program my Professor Kurt in the Biology Department at Lafayette College.  The award funded my summer research at the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harvard University where I conducted HIV research in the lab of Bruce Walker. (Summer 2016)

  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute Science Horizons (1)

The Science Horizons program is a mentoring program for first-year students with an interest in pursuing science and research. It was the opportunity that gave me my first exposure to research and a mentor that has been with me every step of the way during my college career. (January 2014)

  • Neuroscience Independent Study (1)

As a sophomore, Professor Gabel allowed me to conduct Neuroscience Research in her lab as an Independent Study student.  Through this opportunity, I was able to study fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP), a protein whose mutation is responsible for Fragile X Syndrome. (Fall 2014- Spring 2015)

  • Psi Chi Honor Society (2)

I was inducted into the “Society,” an international honor society for Psychology and Neuroscience Majors in the spring of my sophomore year at Lafayette College.

  • Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Scientist (ABRCMS) Poster Presentation (1)

ABRCMS is a conference that unites one of the largest communities of underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  Not did only I present my research and meet other undergraduates pursuing science careers, I was mentored by individuals conducting the research that I hope to be involved in one day.  Additionally, I was able to interact with representatives of several medical and graduate programs. (November 2016)

  • Externships (2)

During January Interim 2015, I had an externship at the Lammerding Lab at Cornell University where I shadowed Ashley Kaminski, PhD Candidate, as she studied the potential role of ECM structure/composition on disease progression in mouse models of Hutchinson Gilford Progeria and muscular dystrophy.  Additionally, during January Interim 2016, I had an externship with Dr. Lawrence Livronese, Infectious Disease Specialist, at the Lankenau Medical Center in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

  • Biology Department Lab Assistant (1)

As a sophomore, I served as a Biology Lab Assistant to Professor Reynolds.  In this role, I helped to keep the Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) alive that she used for her research and in her Neuroscience classes.


Campus Service/Activities and Awards – Total Years Involved

  • Association of Black Collegians (President) (4)

The Association of Black Collegians has served as an organization that provided me with support and guidance during my time at Lafayette College.  It has been a place where members of the community feel comfortable coming together in community and discussing Black issues.  I was honored to take on the role of President during my Senior Year.

  • Fitness Assistant Recreation Services (4)

As a Fitness Assistant, I helped patrons with their various cardio and weight lighting needs.  In this role, I re-rack weights, clean machines as needed, and ensure that students are utilizing machines within recreation guidelines.

  • Kaleidoscope Social Justice Peer Educator (Co-Coordinator) (3)

Kaleidoscope is an organization of students dedicated to promoting Social Justice on campus.  This group organizes discussions involving the Big 8 (Ability, Age, Ethnicity, Gender, Race, Religion, Sexual Orientation, and Socioeconomic Status).  I joined this group because I wanted to be a part of an organization dedicated to education and increasing equity.  However, upon joining this group, I found a community of individuals who taught me how to have a productive conversation on difficult topics and to perform the research necessary to intellectually articulate my perspective.  Additionally, taking the role of Co-Coordinator during my senior year has allowed me to coordinate the behind the scenes responsibilities that allow Kaleidoscope to operate on a day to day basis.

  • Intramural Supervisor Recreation Services (2)

I served as an Assistant Intramural Supervisor for one year and then was promoted to Associate Intramural Supervisor for an additional year.  In these roles, I organized Intramural sports at Lafayette College ensuring that equipment was ready for each event and that the brackets had been properly organized. 

  • Resident Advisor (2)

I served as a Resident Advisor in both Easton Hall and Keefe Hall.  In Easton Hall, I was a Resident Advisor to roughly 25 residents, mostly first year students, who I helped navigate new experiences at college.  In Keefe Hall, I was a Resident Advisor to roughly 28 residents, mostly upperclassmen, who I helped foster community through coordinating various programs and meetings.

  • Head Resident (1)

I am currently the Head Resident for Keefe Hall, Grossman House, McKelvy House, and Reeder Street.  Within this role, I coordinate, supervise, and complete various administrative tasks required to ensure my area runs smoothly.  In addition, I enjoy helping to develop the skills of new and returning Resident Advisors and helping to build a sense of community within my area.

  • Senior Interviewer (1)

As a Senior Interviewer, I interviewed prospective students interested in attending Lafayette College.  Following interviews, I wrote a statement of behalf of each student indicating why I felt the student would be a good fit for Lafayette College.

  • List of Concerns (1)

The List of Concerns is a fourteen page document that was created in collaboration with several campus minority organizations to detail ways in which the Lafayette College community can further support minority students.  It is a document that has allowed student voices to be heard and made it possible for administrators and faculty to connect for a common goal of increasing support for Lafayette College’s most marginalized students.  Additionally, the List of Concerns calls for the creation of the Equity, Transformation, and Accountability Board which will hopefully help to institutionalize the involvement of student voices in administrative and faculty discussions to improve student support.

  • MoreThanMizzou: An Open Conversation on Race, Activism, and Resistance on College Campuses (1)

In light of recent events at the University of Missouri, several Lafayette Students, including myself, organized a discussion on the role that race plays on college campuses.  We contacted faculty, staff, athletics, greek life, and various other organizations on campus to bring together roughly 400 members of the college campus to discuss this topic.  Following the discussion, five students (including myself) presented President Byerly and Vice President Diorio with a five point proposal to increase and support diversity on campus.  Additionally, this event won the Aaron O. Hoff Award for Big 8 Program of the Year.

  • Race and Police Brutality Community Meeting (1)

I worked with other student leaders to organize a community discussion on Race and Police Brutality in Farinon Atrium.  This meeting occurred on December 1, 2014 and allowed the Lafayette College community to discuss police and race relations on campus and in America.


Community Service – Total Years Involved

  • Alternative School Break: Team Land of the Free (1)

My ASB trip went to Santa Ana, El Salvador to learn more about systemic poverty and the displacement that families had suffered as a result.  We met two families, in particular, who we built homes for and learned more about their stories.  When we came back to campus, we organized a discussion to raise awareness about the cycle of poverty and ways to break the cycle.

  • Rising Star Award (1)

The Rising Star Award is presented by the Office of Intercultural Development to a first year scholar at Lafayette College who has demonstrated commitment to intercultural campus engagement.

  • Paul Tully Memorial Prize (1)

The Paul Tully Memorial Prize is awarded to the student that best exemplifies the progressive principles of social and political service—democratic ideals to which Paul Tully devoted his life.  I was honored to receive this award along with Erik Maxwell Jones ’15 during my sophomore Year at Lafayette College.


Athletics Activity/Award – Total Years Involved

  • Girls Club Basketball (2)

The Girls Club Basketball team places basketball with other local club teams and participates in Lafayette College’s Intramural Basketball tournament.

  • Precision Step Team (1)

The Precision Step Team is an organization that performs various step routines throughout the year. 


Special Interest – Total Years Involved

  • School for International Training (SIT) International Honors Program Study Abroad (1)

I completed the Health and Community: Globalization, Culture, and Care Track in a Public Health Program where I studied Infectious Disease, specifically HIV and TB, as I travelled from India to South Africa to Brazil.  This semester was an amazing opportunity that allowed me to examine the similarities and differences in the policies and treatments surrounding HIV and TB between the three countries.  It also solidified a desire in me to ensure that I continue to study Public Health as I become a doctor.

  • Emergency Medicine Technician Training (1)

I have conducted the necessary training to receive my license from the state of Maryland to work as an Emergency Medicine Technician.

  • Social Justice Retreat: From Me to We (1)

The “From Me to We” Retreat is a weekend in Kirkridge, Bangor, Pennsylvania that brings together members of the Lafayette College community to discuss diversity and social justice focusing on the Big 8 as guiding themes.

  • Spoken Word (4)

Since Middle School, I have written poetry as a way to ensure an emotional release and to express myself.  During this time, I have used Spoken Word to promote ideas of social justice and to raise awareness about the need for diversity. 

2017 Winner

Finalists 2017

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