Melissa Harrison, '02

Politics can be a very polarizing topic, yet it does play a major role in our culture today. Contentious discussions can be tempered when there’s a voice of reason – a person with integrity and intellect – working behind the scenes to make a difference. Melissa Harrison is that voice.

Melissa is thankful for the career path that had its foundation at Heidelberg. As a communication and political science double major, she jumped into the arena while a student, working for a small-market radio station and writing for a weekly newspaper.

It was a sign of things to come. Her career took off when she became an aide for the Ohio Senate Minority Leader, fulfilling the same role for a state senator. The public got their first view of Melissa when she served as the spokeswoman for a candidate for Ohio attorney general. In that role, she traveled with the candidate, serving as the lead media contact, the primary writer for press releases and advisories, and leading advance work for press conferences and appearances.

That same year, when she became the deputy communications director for the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus, it was a sign of good things to come and her first foray into the environmental arena. As deputy communications director for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Melissa developed media strategies for the complex environmental issues and planned and executed events with high-ranking public officials.

After four years with the Ohio EPA and several shorter-term appointments for candidates and causes, Melissa’s specific expertise in the environmental/sustainability field helped to land her with the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York City, as its communications director. In that role, she managed internal and external communications including media, social media and advocacy/electoral campaigns. It turned out to be excellent preparation for an even bigger role – press secretary, and eventually deputy associate administrator of public affairs for the U.S. EPA.

After her 15 years of experience in state and federal government, politics and media, Melissa drew on her comprehensive background when she joined Ogilvy Public Relations as vice president for corporate and public affairs. She directs work on public relations, thought leadership and crisis communication for corporate, non-profit and association clients.

Throughout her career, Melissa has garnered high-profile media coverage for her clients in international and national outlets such as the Associated Press, Reuters, USA Today, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Politico, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and The Guardian. She also has appeared on cable television networks, including MSNBC and C-SPAN.

Melissa is active in her community as a member of the Truman National Security Project and as a co-leader for a monthly homeless outreach service in Washington, D.C. While still living in Columbus, Melissa was instrumental in launching Heidelberg’s Central Ohio Alumni Chapter. It was her idea to create an alumni picnic to welcome incoming freshmen into the Heidelberg family, an event that has expanded to other alumni chapters and continues today.

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