Student and Alumni Spotlights

Melody Nunez

Living With Institutional Barriers Inspires a Social Justice-Focused Future

Melody Nunez

Public Policy/Minor in Political Science, Class of 2024

  • Hometown: Elizabeth, NJ
  • Minors/Certificate: Political Science
  • Activities/Organizations: Douglass Residential College, Amnesty International President; Rutgers Women’s Gaming League Vice President, Rutgers Commuter Student Association Events Chair, Routure Magazine Graphic Designer
  • Personal interests: Playing video games, reading Sci-Fi novels, collecting cute trinkets, drawing

Like many students, Melody Nunez’s interest in politics was piqued during the 2016 presidential election. But even before that, she was socially aware of injustices and human rights issues—from living them every day.

“It’s not hard to be aware of social injustice when it is your constant reality,” Melody said. “Growing up in Elizabeth, NJ—an urban, low-income city—you start to recognize a pattern of injustices your city and the surrounding areas face. Living in a highly industrialized part of the state, the sheer amount what a surplus of factories, highways, garbage incinerators, energy plants, and being right at the shipping seaport can do to the locals is horrible.”

As the quality of life for the residents of these urban areas decreases, she noted, the more the community suffers.

“Even more overwhelming are the institutional barriers faced by residents seeking help. Seeing this—and living it—made me want to advocate for and be at the table writing policy and actively improving lives in my community, and in others like it.”

Melody chose public policy to help alleviate these patterns of injustice and make her community better.

“Before applying to Rutgers, I knew I wanted to pursue something in the realm of government and politics. I took Intro to Public Policy in my freshman year. It was the very beginning of the pandemic, the class was online, and my professor took the time to make a comment on my final exam,” she said.

Melody, great job this semester under tough conditions. If we were in person, I’d probably pull you aside and tell you to consider a public policy major/minor/master’s degree. Always available to discuss these options if you’d like.

The comment stuck with her and gave her the confidence to take public policy seriously and declare it as her major. Her professor was Stuart Shapiro, now Dean of the Bloustein School.

As a commuter, she said picking Rutgers felt like a no-brainer—it was a highly-rated school, and it was close to home. As she explored classes and programs and clubs, she discovered why Rutgers was a great choice.

“Rutgers has a niche for everyone. It just takes a little searching to find what speaks to you. I am part of a diverse group of Rutgers organizations, from art to activism to serving underrepresented populations on campus, which has helped me gain the skills to better assist, communicate, and create safe places.”

After a long day of classes and extracurricular activities, Melody commutes back home on the train to Elizabeth with a tired smile, knowing that she did good, fulfilling work that day.

She has also enjoyed the many electives offered within the public policy major at the Bloustein School. The biggest problem she has? “There are so many topics within the major, and there’s not enough time to take all that I am interested in!”

Melody plans to use public policy as her jumping-off point to law school, hoping to follow in the footsteps of her parents, both of whom were lawyers in their native country of Colombia.

“All that I do in the classroom and on campus is to make my mother proud and be able to support my immediate family in the future. I want to be comfortable and build wealth for the sacrifice my mother made when she came to the U.S.”

Advice to prospective students: Once you declare your major/minor, get ready to be inundated with emails! Take the time to read them and don’t scroll past them. There are so many opportunities, and you should definitely take a second to consider everything. You don’t want to miss out on programs, events, internships, or anything else because of disinterest. All of these things will help you out in the future in the form of recommendations and connections. And overall, will contribute to a fun experience to look back on.