By Benjamin Ginsburg
This summer, Melanie Hanson ’17 achieved nearly every student’s dream: She landed a job in her chosen field just a week after walking across the commencement stage. Melanie graduated from UC Davis in economics but wanted to pursue a career in public health. Starting in July, she began working at UC San Francisco, where she assists a project manager in clinical trials for breast cancer research. She says she could not have achieved this goal without her family’s support. Her father, Steve Hanson, is a Parent and Family Association member, a donor to UC Davis and was there every step of the way through Melanie’s college experience.
“As a transfer student, it took me seven years to graduate from college, and in that time I had a fair amount of uncertainty,” said Melanie. “I would keep asking myself, ‘Am I actually going to achieve my goals?’ I wasn’t sure I would ever join my peers who already had their degrees. But my family was always supportive of me, and they kept reminding me that I could succeed.”
Melanie attributes her new career opportunity to the support she received from her family and the nurturing environment at UC Davis. She grew up watching her mother as an occupational therapist, which sparked her interest in public health. Then, as a student, she worked at the UC Davis Student Health and Wellness Center, where she found mentors, earned hands-on experience and fell deeper in love with the field.
“I really want to help people, and I’m so excited that I get to work for a university in the public health field. It’s a dream come true,” she said.
Inspired by family
During her time at UC Davis, Melanie channeled her gratitude for her family’s support into service to other students. She helped found the organization Aggie RISE (Recover, Inspire, Support, Empower), which supports students who are recovering from long-term alcohol and drug abuse, with the help of staff advisor Stephanie Lake. Melanie joined Students for a Sensible Drug Policy and worked towards removing the stigma surrounding alcohol and drug addiction to ensure that students who overdose are treated as patients and not criminals. Through these pursuits, she established a legacy of service at UC Davis that will last well beyond her graduation.
Melanie says her desire to help her community was in part inspired by her family’s example. Steve and his wife Karen established the Hanson Family Undergraduate Student Research Award, which helps UC Davis students travel to present their work. Based on his own experience, Steve knows the value of mentoring and project-based work in preparation for future careers, both for gaining experience in the field and making professional connections.
“I was able to participate in research with graduate students as an undergrad, and that really contributed to my success in my career,” said Steve, who studied computer science at UC Santa Cruz. “A lot of the work was over my head as an undergraduate, but by listening and participating, I learned very quickly, and it helped in my classes. I got to learn how the professors thought about real problems and talked about them. We wanted to see other people have that opportunity as well.”
Although Melanie did not do any research of her own during her undergraduate studies, she earned hands-on experience through jobs and leading student organizations. During her work at the Student Health and Wellness Center, she made a professional connection that led to her current job at UCSF.
“UC Davis students have amazing opportunities to develop experience and make connections outside of the classroom,” Melanie said. “My dad benefited from doing research, and I benefited from working; his support for these kinds of extra-academic activities is really going to help students like me.”