July 21st, 2015

Volunteer spotlight

Therese Melden (SAR’81)

Therese A. Melden—alumna, proud parent of a daughter graduating from the College of Communication in 2016, long-term member of the Sargent College Dean’s Advisory Board, and chair of the Sargent College campaign—recently sat with us for an interview.

Q: Do you recall highlights from your time at BU?
TM: I was in a work-study program, and I arranged a lot of my own placements. I did an internship at a group home in Brookline—in Coolidge Corner—where we worked closely with the Department of Mental Health to help the residents develop living skills. After I graduated, they offered me a job. That was great.

Q. You were out of touch with BU for a number of years after your graduation. Why was that?
TM: I was here during the ’70s, which was a time of questioning, of protests on campus, and so on. Many people who graduated from college at that time haven’t tended to be very supportive of their schools. I also got married, went to graduate school, and started a family. My focus was elsewhere.

Q. You came back into the Sargent fold when you joined the Dean’s Advisory Board in 2007. How did that come about?
TM: When you’re young, you really don’t have an understanding of why a university needs support. But over time, you tend to get it. In the time period we’re talking about, my children were in independent middle and high schools. I was on the boards of those schools, and I learned how important annual giving was. So when the BU solicitation came around, I finally gave, which put me on [former SAR Dean] Gloria Waters’s radar.

She contacted me, we sat down and had breakfast, and she started telling me about everything that had changed at Sargent since I had left. And honestly, it was thrilling to hear about all the new programs, and the research, and the wide variety of community outreach programs that were going on. My daughter Emily was in high school at the time and was talking about going into medicine. When I mentioned that to Gloria, she told me that a Sargent education was a perfect path into medical school. She said it was a small school, with an intimate environment and lots of individual attention. And interestingly enough, that’s exactly how I remembered Sargent.

Even though the College has grown and flourished, the intimacy of the place apparently hadn’t diminished. That combination piqued my interest. So when Gloria asked me to join her leadership board, I was happy to do it.

Q: What are Sargent’s strengths?

TM: I’m impressed with the research in neuroscience, Parkinson’s, the Aphasia Resource Center, the Psych Rehab Center, and the community outreach programs. I’m a huge believer in building community, so I’m thrilled that Sargent has these outreach programs that are so effective. That’s a huge strength of the College.

Q: You have volunteered to chair the Sargent campaign. What are the College’s most pressing needs?

TM: They need more faculty support, including money for junior and senior faculty to do research. They need additional faculty members to balance the workload in each department. International internship programs need funding. And of course, more financial aid is needed. I was on financial aid while I was at BU, and without it, I would not have been able to attend Sargent College.

Q: You’re known as an effective ambassador for BU. What works?

TM: Well, what’s interesting is how often a conversational topic at a social gathering overlaps with something that BU is involved in. I often have the opportunity to say, “Hey, did you know that BU is doing research on that?” So I get the chance to talk about what we’re doing within the College, and then also across the schools and colleges—with the School of Medicine and the School of Public Health, for example.

Believe me: I can talk about that with enthusiasm!

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