Spotlight on...

photo of Melanie Levin and Lilly Ledbetter
Melanie Ross Levin (left) celebrates the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act with the woman for whom the bill was named.
Melanie Ross Levin

Standing up for the little gal

Melanie Ross Levin, MPA ’05, B.A. ’03 (Political Science and Women’s Studies) goes to work each day with a smile on her face, knowing that the work she is doing really does make a difference in the lives of women, particularly those of low income.  As Senior Outreach Manager for the National Women's Law Center, Levin develops education and advocacy campaigns on public policy issues that are under debate in Congress.

“My first position with the Center focused on outreach and communications around judicial nominations,” explains Levin.  Since then her portfolio has grown to include Title IX, family and economic security, child care, and equal pay for equal work.  Because of the variety and importance of her work, Levin affirms, “I’m never bored, because I am working for issues that I care greatly about.”

Levin says, “My greatest professional accomplishment thus far has been working on the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. This was the first bill that President Obama signed into law. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act reversed the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and helped to ensure that individuals subjected to unlawful compensation discrimination are able to effectively assert their rights under the federal anti-discrimination laws.”

The photo of Levin with Lilly Ledbetter was taken outside of the White House just prior to the bill signing.

Levin’s post-graduate experiences have also included some valuable political work.

“I worked for [U.S.] Senator [Tom] Carper’s reelection campaign in 2006,” Levin says. “Working on this campaign gave me a lot of confidence in my ability to multi-task under tight deadlines. One day I had to find a union-operated billboard printer, and the next day I had to coordinate three launch events on the same day in Wilmington, Dover, and Rehoboth Beach. In the end, this job gave Levin a deep respect for politicians and the staff that work tirelessly for them.

After Senator Carper’s campaign, Levin tried her hand as a consultant working for the Delaware Business Roundtable on [the Delaware educational improvement plan called] Vision 2015. “Vision 2015 taught me a lot about the rewards and challenges of changing a state educational system,” Levin says. “I was thrilled to see that many of the ideas in Vision 2015 became part of Delaware’s winning Race to the Top application.”

While at the University of Delaware, Levin was very active in student and political organizing.  “I believe that my first lesson in marketing, which is a big part of my current job, came from starting and leading groups on campus,” Levin says. “You learn a lot from filling buses of students, using a bullhorn to lead marches and, most importantly, negotiating lasting policy change between the administration, students, and faculty. I believe that working on improving policies on campus is good practice for working on improving policy in Dover and even in Washington, D.C.”

During her senior year, Levin worked in the Delaware legislature, through the Legislative Fellows Program managed by IPA.  There she learned a lot about juggling competing assignments under tight deadlines. It also gave her a deeper appreciation for Delaware politics. “Only in Delaware,” Levin insists, “would a lifelong Democrat be recruited by a Republican to work in the Republican caucus. I not only worked in the Republican caucus for one year as a Fellow, but returned for a second” while a graduate student in the MPA program.

Of course, Levin learned a great deal while working for IPA and completing her graduate degree. She speaks glowingly of the school, its MPA program, and the faculty and staff.

“I believe that the three keys to a successful graduate program are classroom preparation, quality work placement, and mentorship,” Levin says. “UD’s School of Public Policy & Administration has all three of these elements in its MPA program. My time [working as a research assistant for] IPA was such a period of personal growth, because I wasn’t just growing in the classroom, I was growing professionally and personally.

“My mentors from IPA continue to be my mentors and friends today,” Levin says. “IPA has built an incredible program that is tightly woven into the fabric of Delaware, which helps graduates of the MPA program succeed as professionals. Something special happens when your classroom work clicks with your professional experience. That reinforcement, which happens every day for MPA students, is the magic of IPA.”

As far as future aspirations, Levin would love to one day open her own business and run for office.

Despite being a New Jersey native, Levin says she and her husband, Seth, have adopted Delaware as their home away from home, when not in the nation’s capital.  Levin admits, “After working the D.C. grind, we love to vacation in North Bethany Beach. We also greatly appreciate a good Margherita’s pizza on our way to visit family in New Jersey.”  

She is also getting used to being a mom to her beautiful new daughter, Elliana.  Through Levin’s work with the National Women’s Law Center, she hopes to create a more equitable society for Elliana to inherit.

photo courtesy of Melanie Ross Levin