Melinda Kuritzky Seeks To ‘Impact Change’ In Board Of Trustees Campaign
Melinda Kuritzky imagines a bright future for Penn State, and with her ideal future comes great change.
As a graduate of the Liberal Arts College and the Schreyer Honors College, Kuritzky explored her career options through many different endeavors. Between internships centered around state politics and international policy in Harrisburg and Washington D.C., study abroad experiences in the U.K., Spain, and South Africa, and volunteer work in El Salvador for Engineers Without Borders, Kuritzky took advantage of the opportunities Penn State gave her.
“Penn State really was the launch pad for, you know, everything that came after,” Kuritzky said.
After being approached by members of Penn State Forward last year, Kuritzky realized the impact she could have on the future of Penn State’s staff and students.
Penn State Forward was established in 2021 to support “young, forward-thinking candidates” who will push for sustainability and inclusivity when running for Board of Trustees seats. She was already aligned with the organization’s ideals and platform, so speaking with members of Penn State Forward was enough to motivate Kuritzky to run for a board position.
“I, you know, in these conversations, became convinced that running for a board position and particularly helping to push forward this platform would be one of the most effective ways to impact change,” Kuritzky said.
Currently, Kuritzky works as an attorney advisor at the U.S. Department of State, where she advises on international law and represents the United States in international disputes. The dual majors in international politics and Spanish that Kuritzky left Happy Valley with granted her the “universe of knowledge” that she utilizes in her career today.
Directly after she graduated from Penn State in 2006, Kuritzky joined Teach For America. Kuritzky credits her initial insight into educational inequities to the firsthand experience she received teaching in an urban public school. She claims to have witnessed these inequities increase and work their way up to higher education, an issue she is passionate about to this day.
“I saw a statistic that said that 35% of students at Penn State have reported food insecurity,” Kuritzky said. “Housing, too, is precarious, particularly at the University Park campus, where 17% of students have reported challenges in securing affordable housing.”
Kuritzky believes these insecurities can affect a student’s ability to take full advantage of the college experience, specifically the beneficial opportunities that Penn State offers. She hopes to change that statistic.
“I think part of my goal and what’s motivated me to run is to help close those gaps, close those inequities that exist in the Penn State University student experience,” Kuritzky said.
Along with Penn State Forward running mates Uma Moriarity and Ali Krieger, Kuritzky’s focus will center around four pillars: climate action, equity, governance reform, and worker’s rights.
“We want to see transparency and democracy in university administration,” Kuritzky explained. “And this starts with the board itself.”
Kuritzky suspects the issues that Penn State is facing are shared among peer institutions, suggesting that the university crowdsource data from its peers to further progress in these areas. Embodying sustainability, securing democratic workplace environments, and ensuring equity across all fronts are paramount to Kuritzky.
“I think with more information and more community sourced solutions, we can better address the issues of sexual violence, racism, and other issues that plague Penn State as well as society at large,” Kuritzky said.
If given a seat on the board, Kuritzky plans to use her experience in “forecasting risk” to push for prioritization of academic excellence, democracy in decision-making, and closing opportunity gaps. She believes she can use her policy and advocacy background to help future-proof Penn State in these areas.
“I can really dive into issues of any kind, understand the details, and advocate for particular paths forward based on the evidence presented,” Kuritzky said. “I think part of my [role] is also to help gather that evidence to figure out OK, what are the questions that need answering in order to formulate a good policy around, you know, student housing, for example.”
Kuritzky argues that not only do her and her running mates’ backgrounds and skills complement each other, but they are also qualities the Board of Trustees could benefit from.
“I think that students really want to see this forward-thinking in their leadership, and I think alumni share these values,” Kuritzky explained. “I know because I’ve spent years mentoring and speaking with current students and recent alumni, and I think with our shared values as a compass, we can work together with other trustees on the board to put Penn State on a path forward.”
Voting for this year’s trustee election will close on May 4. Eligible alumni can request ballots through this online form.
Editor’s note: Kuritzky’s interview is one of a multi-part series that aims to feature alumni running for open seats on the Board of Trustees. Onward State does not, and will not, endorse any candidate(s) in this election. Check out our site to read more about the seven remaining candidates vying for spots on the board throughout this year’s election cycle.
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