Alumni Spotlight – Melissa Wasser, Policy Counsel at the Project On Government Oversight

Recently, the Office of Alumni Career Management sat down with alumna Melissa Wasser to talk about her time at Ohio State, and how that has impacted her career since graduation.  Below are Melissa’s answers to some of our questions, as well as her advice for current and prospective Buckeyes considering following in her career path.

Melissa Wasser

Degree: J.D. & M.A. in Public Policy and Management
Graduation Year: 2017
Current Occupation: Policy Counsel at the Project On Government Oversight

  1. – What brought you to The Ohio State University?

I always knew I wanted to go to law school, but I still had an interest in policy work that I wasn’t able to explore during undergrad. Knowing The Ohio State University has one of the best dual degree programs in the country at the Moritz College of Law and the John Glenn College of Public Affairs was the main reason driving my decision to enroll at Ohio State. I wanted the opportunity to challenge myself at a top-tier university while building the necessary skills to enter the workforce as a lawyer.

  1. – How did your experiences at Ohio State shape your career path?

Ohio State gave me the opportunity to participate in the Moritz College of Law’s Legislation Clinic, which gave me clinical placement experience working at the Ohio Statehouse. Learning how to monitor and analyze legislative issues at the state level is valuable knowledge that I still use in my current role every day. I was able to work with state legislators, give input on legislative language, and see how the state legislative process really worked. Being able to have this experience in one of the few legislation clinics in the country really set me apart from my peers and I credit that experience for helping me realize what my dream job now looks like.

      3. – What advice do you have for OSU alumni and students interested in pursuing a career in your field?

If you’re looking for a career in the policy space, I highly recommend finding a mentor that can help guide you in your career. When I was searching for my current position, I reached out to mentors that I’ve had since college, mentors in law school, and other Buckeyes in this space to just ask for some advice. Find people who are where you want to be in 5 or 10 years and ask them how they got to their current position. Sometimes, all it takes is a random email or LinkedIn message asking another Buckeye for 15 minutes of their time to find the person who will make a profound impact on your professional life. Take advantage of resources at Ohio State that can connect you to alumni in the career field you want to be in! Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there to not only better yourself, but to find that next opportunity.

  1. – What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

My greatest professional accomplishment would be testifying before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet last summer on the federal judiciary during the COVID-19 pandemic. Being able to speak to members of Congress directly on how important access to the federal courts is, especially so early in my professional career, was challenging and highly rewarding. I’m very grateful that I was able to have this accomplishment just three years after graduating from Ohio State. I can’t wait to see what the next few years have in store!

  1. – What inspires you in your profession?

Working hard at work worth doing and setting an example for others inspires me in my profession. Whether it’s breaking down complex issues for Congress or highlighting government accountability options for policy wonks, I want to be able to champion good government reforms and make more people aware of how corruption and abuse of power hurts us all. It’s also very important to me that I set an example for those looking to get into the legal and policy fields, both in my work as a Policy Counsel and in the mentoring space. Knowing what it took to get here and being real about the struggle is something that I want to be able to give back to others who are just starting out. If I can lift up another Buckeye to join me in this space, it makes it all worth it.

For more information about Melissa, or to connect with her, please visit her online here:

Twitter@Melissa_Wasser (
LinkedIn: Melissa Wasser (
Instagram@Melissa_Wasser (


Alumni Spotlight – Marissa Lee

Marissa Lee, 2009 – Fisher College of Business
Founder and CEO, SOW EVOLVE and HR Strategist, PPG Industries

What brought you to Ohio State University?

I’m originally from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, but I grew up in Columbus. Growing up in Columbus I couldn’t escape the reach of The Ohio State University, even if I wanted to, but I always loved OSU. As I decided where I wanted to continue my education, OSU and University of Pittsburgh rose to the top. I visited both universities and they had great business schools, campus life, and offered me scholarships. However, there was just something about OSU…the feel, the sense of something bigger…so I decided to become a Buckeye.

#FunFact Even though I didn’t chose University of Pittsburgh, I have been surrounded by their graduates most of my career. I’ve worked for two Pittsburgh based companies.

How did your experiences at OSU help to shape your career path?

I grew so much during my time at OSU. I had the chance to continue to find different aspects of myself, get more comfortable with my voice, meet some awesome people, and strengthen my relationship with God. I could go on and on but one thing that really stands out from my collegiate journey was how I decided on my field of study. In the beginning, I wanted to get a dual degree in business and education. I had spent a lot of time tutoring others and many of my teachers had been very influential throughout my life. Also, I wanted to make money and I wanted to graduate in 4 years. So, I decided to pivot. I chose to go the business route and explored other ways to fulfill my teaching dreams which brought me to my major selection. Human Resources was always “it” for me. It was going to allow me to develop people, shape organizations and teach…just in a different setting.

One of the things I loved about Fisher College of Business was that we were able to get an introduction to other functional areas. Through that exposure, I was able to discover my affinity for Operations Management and Logistics which led me to become a triple major. I also minored in English. My multiple interests required a higher level of commitment, time management, and understanding of a study/social life balance. I wanted this so I did everything in my power to achieve it on time.

I have always had a high propensity to succeed and my OSU experience helped me stay true to that vision and hone my work ethic. Now as I balance working in Corporate America and building SOW EVOLVE, I’m able to use some of the same tenets I used to graduate with 3 majors and a minor within 4 years. Ultimately, allowing me to grow in my career and provide others with a blueprint to do the same thing.

What advice or insight do you have for alumni and current students considering your career path?

I would tell anyone considering my career path to:

  1. Maintain your integrity

Integrity is your foundation and I consider it an absolute essential in the HR space…especially since we operate in more of an influencer role. As an influencer, we have a responsibility to show courage and take a stand to maintain that footing. This may not always win you friends but it will garner respect.

  1. Think Business, but be Human

HR is far more than hiring and firing. When leveraged appropriately, HR can be a competitive advantage for an organization. As a true partner to the business, one must claim their seat at the table by understanding the business and providing comprehensive strategic solutions which allows one to be viewed in a different light. Analytics and storytelling will be key to getting buy-in. As you help move the business forward and execute on decisions, always remember your dealing with people. People that want to grow, develop, progress, and depend on the organization as part of their livelihood. Be conscious of that. Your work will change lives so take that responsibility seriously.

  1. Build Relationships

The saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know” is so true. You will not get anywhere alone. From an encouraging word to a recommendation, your network is essential to helping you navigate through this journey. So take the time to nurture those relationships.

  1. Be patient

Nothing happens overnight but it will happen one night or day, if you stay the course. Imagine if I would have gave up when I couldn’t find a full-time job until 2 years after graduating from college. Challenges will come but don’t let them deter you. Be patient and keep going.


Alumni Spotlight – Mindy Derr

Hello there Buckeyes!  It’s time to feature another wonderful alumnus from your ranks for this quarter’s Alumni Spotlight!

This time our spotlight is Mindy Derr, an avid philanthropist who founded and now serves as advisor for OhioHealth Fore Hope.  Fore Hope is a nationally recognized nonprofit organization that uses golf as an instrument for therapy designed to improve the lives of persons living with neurological and cognitive disorders.  Through this organization, which Mindy founded in 1989, countless numbers of patrons have reaped the therapeutic benefits of golf and had their lives forever changed by Mindy’s vision.

Mindy Derr – Community Advocate and Founder/Consultant, Fore Hope (OhioHealth Fore Hope) (1981 – BA, Communications)


My advice for anyone, regardless of their career path, would be to follow their dreams and their mission. Go for it, give it all you’ve got, and don’t refuse the calling on your life. Don’t stomp on anyone else’s dreams along the way, either. Be wise about everything. Specifically, if you would like to begin a career in the world of community advocacy and nonprofit, make sure that you surround yourself with people who can support your mission. Be sure that you have a circle that include people who know about taxes and accounting, that you’re building a succession plan, and more. Begin with the end in mind, and be smart enough to know that you cannot possibly know everything.


Alumni Spotlight – Meet Kwame Christian

Hey there Buckeyes! It’s time again for a new Alumni Spotlight!  This time around, we are featuring attorney, author, podcast extraordinaire, and all-around great guy, Kwame Christian.  Check out his information below, and get to know this one of a kind Buckeye.

Kwame Christian, Esq.
Best-Selling Author and Director of the American Negotiation Institute
(2010, BA – Psychology; 2013, MA – Public Administration; 2013 – Juris Doctorate)

What brought you to Ohio State?

I actually chose Ohio State because I am from a really small town, and I decided that when I went to college, I wanted to experience something different from what I was used to.  I’m from Tippin, OH which has a population of about 20,000 people, and Ohio State has a population of more than twice that.  Even though the thought process wasn’t all that great, I am glad that I chose OSU, because it was the best experience for me.

How did your experiences at OSU help shape your career path?

I had a lot of great mentors coming through school, which is something that I have always found to be very beneficial.  I got a great education, and also was positioned around people who were willing to invest in me.  My best mentor was a woman named Patty Cunningham, who made a huge impact on me because she would not accept my excuses – she would always push me to do better.  The fact that there were people here who cared enough about me to help shape the path after I left was instrumental for me.

What advice do you have for any students or alumni who may be considering your career path?

My career path is a bit unorthodox – I started out in psychology, and then went into law, where I practiced for a few years prior to starting The American Negotiation Institute.  Really, negotiation is a way for me to get back to my love of psychology.   So what I would suggest to others is to pursue their passion and follow their interests.  When I was doing law, my clients were happy and I was doing well, but I wasn’t very interested in the material – I was always interested in psychology.  So, looking back at my career, it is very much me taking incremental steps back to what I love doing.  The benefit is that, when you’re doing what you really, really love doing, you can tap into boundless energy. Now I am able to create great content and work on awesome presentations because I really just love what I do.  

Alumni Spotlight – Colonel Ken Kmetz

Hey all!  We are back again to spotlight another one of our distinguished Buckeye alumni.  Our newest feature is Colonel Kenneth Kmetz, a 1998 graduate of the MAnsfield Campus of The Ohio State.   Colonel Kmetz graduated from the university with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, while serving in the Air National Guard.  He has now ascended the ranks to the position of Maintenance Group Commander of the 179th Airlift Wing, and he remains a proud Buckeye, through and through!

  1. What brought you to OSU?

Upon enlistment in the Ohio Air National Guard and at my swearing in – where you take an oath to the President of the United States and the Governor of Ohio that you will support and defend the Constitution of the United State and the state of Ohio – I immediately became eligible for a full scholarship to state based institutions.  This is a state of Ohio benefit, as the state realizes the value of having and supporting their “home town/state Air Force and Army National Guard.”  Airmen and soldiers are also eligible for federal benefits that augment the state benefits.  Essentially, we have the opportunity to graduate from college debt free, better for having been a part of something bigger than ourselves, and ready to contribute as a Citizen-Airman.  Knowing this, I chose The Ohio State University because, in my opinion, it is the best university.  OSU provided great traditions, academic excellence, and for me, a regional campus that would allow me to work full time while earning my education.  I graduated from OSU-Mansfield and received the same great education as if I were at main campus.  Go Bucks!

  1. How did your experience at OSU shape your career path?

OSU taught me to learn, to research, and to challenge myself. My time there provided me with the opportunity to compete for a commission (or, become an officer) in the Ohio National Guard.  The things I learned at Ohio State enabled me to grow in the profession of arms.  That profession happens to be as an Ohio Guardsman where I am surrounded by other “Buckeyes.”  I could be in a formation anywhere in the state and hear an “O-H!” followed by an “I-O!”  Ohio State is a part of the culture of Ohio.  I am one Buckeye – a small part of a much larger whole.  Being a part of the National Guard gives me that same feeling, but on a much larger scale.  Here, I serve as a small piece of something so much bigger than myself, and yet somehow, I am not lost in it. I feel valued and realize that what I do is critical to the big picture — defending our nation, our neighbors, and freedom loving people across the globe.

  1. What advice or insight do you have for OSU alumni and students who are interested in your career field?

I have touched on a couple points already that make my career path special, especially as a “Buckeye” working as an Ohio Guardsman.  I am proud to serve and it is an honor and a privilege to serve our great state and nation.  The military has a public trust that is unmatched across career paths.  If you are in uniform in public, people routinely come up to you and thank you for your service.  It is very humbling to say the least; I typically respond by thanking them for their support as well, and recognizing that we cannot do what we do without them.  One of my former commanders pointed out how citizens in some countries run from the military — here, they run to the military.  Less than one percent of the US population is in the military — an all-volunteer force that has been at war for decades.  It is a special place to be with a special mission and opportunities to grow, advance, learn, and provide something back to your community.  If you have the desire to join, you will need to be diligent, ready for a challenge, and give your best — your country deserves nothing less.

Alumni Spotlight – Meet Helen Swank

Helen Swank

Eventually I came to realize that I wanted to build upon my undergraduate degree. When I returned to Ohio State, my supervisor allowed me to design my own unique graduate program. I turned to the departments of physics, speech and hearing science and the medical school to study acoustics, anatomy, engineering and more. I was a teaching assistant in the performance division and my advisor provided great freedom as I developed my thesis. The department of music asked me to stay on as a faculty member, but there was a lot to consider. I was married while I was in college and, by graduate school, had three small children at home. I wasn’t able to accept the opportunity right away. I continued my choral work, private teaching and cared for my mother for a year before the university offered the faculty role once more, on the schedule of my choosing. I taught in music education, in the performance division and chaired the voice performance area.

Go outside the box. The degree programs are wonderful, as is the option of independent study. Choose your academic courses judiciously and learn what you might not be getting in a regular program because it’s going to be important to you! I tell my grandchildren and great grandchildren that if the door opens, stick your foot in. Things happen unexpectedly and there’s a reason sometimes that they do. That opportunity is the opening to the next step, and the next. You won’t know where you’re going to end up, but it doesn’t matter. It will be all right, and very exciting.

The Helen Swank Research and Teaching Lab in the department of vocal music is a world-renowned learning center for Ohio State’s Specialization in Singing Health and voice pedagogy programs. She served as president of Phi Kappa Phi and as head of the voice performance area for 13 of the 25 years that she taught on campus. As two time recipient of the Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award and recipient of the School of Music’s Distinguished Service Award, she has made a distinct mark on The Ohio State University and the field of voice science and research.