Name: Melissa Burrows, PhD
Title/Organization: Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity, Jackson Administration for the City of Cleveland
Degree: PhD in Urban Studies and Public Affairs (2004), Maxine Goodman Levin School of Urban Affairs
Tell us a little about yourself.
I joined the Jackson Administration in October 2014 as the Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity. As Director, I am responsible for monitoring and enforcing Codified Ordinances as a way of promoting equity and inclusion efforts through compliance to goals and promoting “Self Help.” Major functions of the office include: certifying businesses as local, minority, or female-owned; evaluating City contracts related to use of minority and female businesses, employees, and local companies; determining goals and requirements for city contracts; monitoring of contractor's compliance with various contract requirements; training on information for contractors and potential contractors; investigating and imposing penalties for failure to comply with the office’s programs; providing technical support for target businesses; and outreach.
How has your career evolved?
Prior to joining the Jackson Administration, I served as the Faculty Diversity Officer at Case Western Reserve University. I was responsible for providing oversight of university compliance with equal opportunity and affirmative action laws and regulations. I also assisted with diversity and inclusion efforts. Additionally, I worked at KeyBank as the Diversity Measurements Manager, where I was responsible for leading efforts in translating the value proposition of diversity and inclusion efforts on the corporation and building the business case for diversity. I have also taught as an adjunct faculty at various institutions of higher learning.
What’s the biggest challenge you faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
While working at KeyBank, I started to become complacent in my work. My boss, an Executive Vice President, invited me to a meeting. She told me to remember the following, “no one remembers what you did yesterday.” The lesson taught me to perform everyday on my job and to only rely on the quality of work I performed each and every day. Keep in mind I had just completed an important survey for the bank, for which we won recognition. My past performance did not matter! What matters is the current work of the day.
What has been your favorite mentoring moment so far?
I appreciate every conversation and moment with my mentees. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has presented some challenges, it has not stopped the conversations from occurring.
What is one thing you wish someone would have told you prior to beginning your career? What piece of advice do you have for students beginning their careers?
The two pieces of advice I have for someone beginning their professional career is (1) be open to change, and (2) be flexible enough to move into other opportunities. There are times when others can see your potential, even when you cannot see it. Opportunities may present themselves and when they occur, “seize the moment for the moment may never present itself again!”
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Enjoy life because it happens very quickly!