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Melanie Nakanishi

Melanie Nakanishi

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to BioSci.

Shortly after I finished my Masters in Leadership Development in 2017, I was hired as the Graduate Affairs Coordinator in EcoEvo. I briefly left Bio Sci to serve as the Student Affairs Manager in Earth System Science. In Fall 2021, I was grateful to return “home” to Bio Sci. Now, I work as an Academic Advisor and the Co-Director of EASE (Enhanced Academic Success Experience) in Bio Sci Student Affairs.

2. How did you get into your field?

When I was an undergraduate at CSULB, I had the opportunity to serve as an Academic Senator alongside faculty and administrators. At the same time, I worked as a Transfer Advisor for their University Outreach and School Relations Office. I fell in love with helping students and was fascinated by the intricacies of higher education administration. After earning my BA in Political Science in 2014, I started working in admissions offices at other local institutions. During grad school and through my work experience, I realized how passionate I was about public higher education. When I received my offer from EcoEvo, it was a no brainer for me to join the UCI community.

3. What do you enjoy most about what you do at BioSci?

I absolutely love working with our undergraduates. Watching their confidence grow from their first quarter through graduation is so rewarding. I also value the incredible staff I get to work with from across all of Bio Sci.

4. What accomplishments are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the relationships that I’ve built with students and colleagues. For example, a student that I helped 4 years ago sent me an invitation to their dissertation defense this quarter. Some students will email me six months to a year after they graduate to tell me they’ve landed their dream job. Others stop me when I’m out on Ring Road, just to say hi.

5. Can you speak to the importance of diversity and representation in the workplace?

Based on my interactions with students, I know how important it is for them to see and hear from people like themselves. It’s often the difference between “I can’t do this” and “This might be hard, but I CAN do this.” I think the same could be true about representation in the workplace.

I also firmly believe all stakeholders should have a seat at the table. I found my passion for higher education because as a student I was allowed to be in the rooms where strategic planning decisions were being made.

6. What is one piece of advice you can give to young women entering their careers?

As a woman in a helping profession, I’ve found that my peers and I struggle with negotiating and asking for compensation that matches our worth. I encourage young women to recognize negotiation is a normal part of the hiring process. Our male counterparts are fearless in negotiation and there’s no reason we cannot be too.

7. Who do you look up to? What is your source of inspiration?

I’m inspired by the students and my colleagues. The advisors in Bio Sci Student Affairs give 110% and do everything they can to remove barriers for students and keep things equitable.

8. What is your favorite hobby or activity outside of work?

I love Disney theme parks and I am a season ticket holder for Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts. A lesser-known fact is that I’m also obsessed with Battlebots.

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