Policy Studies Alum Melissa Watkinson Selected as Hershman Marine Policy Fellow

Melissa Watkinson ('15, Master of Arts in Policy Studies and '11, Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies and Society, Ethics, and Behavior) has been selected as the first Hershman Marine Policy Fellow from UW Bothell.  She will start working with The Nature Conservancy this fall on coastal climate resiliency and policies, where she hopes to learn how established non-profits engage with local communities and policies on pressing environmental issues.

Melissa is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, though she has lived the majority of her life in Washington State. Her passion for her communities and the Pacific Northwest led her to three degrees from the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington Bothell. Following, her dual major bachelor’s degree, she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA as the Community Outreach Coordinator at the UW Bothell Office of Community-based Learning and Research. She also volunteered with Oxfam America for four years working on food aid and climate change issues.

Melissa enrolled in the Policy Studies program in the fall of 2013, and published her first article in the 2014 Policy Journal. As a graduate student, Melissa worked as a student assistant on health research studies in tribal communities with the Indigenous Wellness Research Institute. “It was both an exciting personal opportunity to work with fellow native researchers, and a professional growth experience to learn and apply new skills in social science.” In the winter of 2015 she was offered a Research Assistantship with Washington Sea Grant to collaborate on a social indicators project for the Washington Marine Spatial Plan. “This gave me the opportunity to strengthen and apply the quantitative and spatial skills that I learned through the Policy program toward the coastal environmental field and communities that I have grown to be passionate about.” Her capstone research employed cross disciplinary research methods to better understand the impacts of historical land policies and more recent land consolidation programs on climate change adaptation for tribal communities who are experiencing a loss of coastal land.

Melissa’s professional and research opportunities have now led her to pursue a career working with coastal tribal communities who are impacted by changing environments and to contribute research on adaptation strategies. “I'm happy that the program has set me up well to work in my field!”