Melanie Ford '15

Melanie Ford

Director of Youth Education Outreach (YEO) and Associate Teaching Professor and Advising Coordinator for Computer Science and Software Engineering at Penn State Behrend. She is a 2015 Mechanical Engineering graduate and has been teaching at Behrend since 2000.

About her job: I teach the first-year seminar courses for all computing majors in the School of Engineering. I also am the Advising Coordinator which means I approve the Degree Audits for anyone wanting to graduate, work with students who may be struggling, help with all curriculum issues within the program, and coordinate with the World Campus advisers on our Software Engineering program online.

YEO provides K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) programming to more than 30,000 youth and educators every year. As the director, I oversee operations and work with industry and corporate partners to collaborate on projects as well as apply for funding and grants to support these initiatives. Our programs vary widely, from a one-hour hands-on program for a scout troop to an overnight summer math-and-science camp that lasts for six weeks.

I absolutely love that I get to help kids decide how to turn their passion and interests into a career.

Hometown: North Bangor, New York.

Family: Husband, Ralph, and grown sons, Alexander '18 and Ryan '22. 

Why she is involved in WEC: I am very passionate about getting young girls involved in the STEAM fields, especially engineering. WEC is a natural extension of that. 

Pet Peeve: When someone complains about something, but they are not willing to learn more about the issue or provide potential solutions to improve it.

Most important traits for a professional woman to possess: Confidence in yourself. But, with that, you need a willingness to work with others and change (your mind, a method, etc.), if it is needed. Believing in yourself and your abilities while also being open to listening and learning from others is a combination for success.

What she wishes every woman knew: That it’s OK to ask for help, especially from women just a step above you in your career path. Most women relish the opportunity to offer a hand up.

What she has learned the hard way: Saying “yes” to everything leads to burnout.

How she unwinds: I love to read, but I love to craft, too. I make cards for family and friends and spend quite a bit of time scrapbooking. I also like hiking and sailing, though laying in the hammock by a campfire is not a bad way to relax either.

Best career advice she’s ever received: Don’t self-select, which means do not decide that you are not qualified for something. Maybe you are. If you are interested in a job and think you’d be good at it, apply. Let them decide if you are not the right fit.

What she learned the hard way: I actually struggled my first year in college because I did all of the things a first-year student should not do, like not studying, taking classes I wasn’t prepared for, and enjoying social life a little too much. I had to take a step back and reevaluate what I wanted. The next year, I made the Dean’s list.

What you’d be surprised to know about her: I love to cook huge meals at holidays. Also, I was a baton twirler and cheerleader in high school, which people find surprising about an engineer.

Most interesting place she’s visited: I have been all over the U.S. and Europe, but I lived in the Czech Republic with my husband and children for six months. It was wonderful. We go back every five years or so to visit friends.

Her perfect free day: I’d craft or sit outside in the hammock and read. Probably I would do both with some chocolate close by to snack on.

Melanie is happy to connect with you and is open to mentoring. How to reach her: