12/21/2017 Melinda Bocci (’06) had worked several years in the developmental disabilities sector when she decided to pursue a master’s in Policy Studies. Much of her work was driven by policy, and she wanted to impact change at a systemic level. While earning her degree, critical disability legislation was being implemented in Washington state. Melinda chose to align her capstone research project with this new policy, which would allow all individuals with developmental disabilities between the ages of 21 and 62 the opportunity for gainful employment in their communities. Her capstone research highlighted the impact of this policy on four stakeholder groups, and the credibility Melinda built through this in-depth research project helped secure her initial position with Snohomish County Developmental Disabilities. Since then, Melinda has advanced to the role of Benefits Planning and Assistance Program Manager and is considered an expert in her field. She is Snohomish County’s only benefits planner, helping clients and their families navigate Social Security policy while teaching them to self-advocate. Melinda has facilitated over 185 workshops and trainings on Social Security to over 3,000 people, including educators, state employees, and employment agency staff. Melinda is serving her second term with the Governor's Committee on Disability Issues and Employment. The GCDE promotes equality, opportunity, independence and full participation in life for people with disabilities, keeping a finger on the pulse of how Washington State's direction, leadership and legislation impacts the lives of people with disabilities. Melinda reflects, "Because Policy Studies is an interdisciplinary degree, I was able to focus my education on a field I am very passionate about. The program allowed me to connect with my professional field in ways that I had never been able to in the past. I would not be where I am today without my graduate degree."