Alum Spotlight: Melissa Gelinas, Class of 2014

What is your current job, and what do you do on a daily basis?

I am currently a Program Officer at Liberty’s Promise. Liberty’s Promise is a small non-profit that supports immigrant youth through after-school programs and professional internship opportunities. As a Program Officer I primarily conduct our after-school programs which help students access higher education and employment opportunities, while becoming more involved in their community. I conduct these programs entirely in Spanish, as the group of youth I work with are recently arrived from Central America (mostly El Salvador and Honduras). In addition to conducting and planning curriculum for programs I work on grant writing, marketing, and anything else that may come up since we are a small non-profit!

Why did you choose to go into the industry/industries that you have since graduating from UVM?

I have always wanted to use my Spanish in whatever career I have, and after graduating from UVM I took a year off where I lived in Quito, Ecuador and taught English to business professionals while working on my Spanish. Afterwards, I attended Wake Forest University where I got my Master’s in Spanish Interpreting and Translation. I worked briefly as an interpreter at Social Services after graduation, but became frustrated by a lack of awareness about available resources within the community for which I was interpreting. This lead me to the non-profit field, as I realized if I worked in a non-profit I could help bridge that gap before it is created and try to ensure that the Spanish-speaking population has equal access to and knowledge of the resources available to them as they would if their first language was English.

How has your degree in linguistics been useful in the work you’ve done since graduating? Are there any particular skills you’ve developed from linguistic coursework that have been especially helpful?

Having a degree in linguistics has been an excellent background for this career path. One of the things that has been helpful is classwork I did focused on Spanish linguistics and second language acquisition as that is extremely relevant to the population I work with daily. Additionally, having an awareness of linguistic differences even within the broader Spanish-speaking community and the differences in language acquisition that can occur based on different factors has been helpful while working with our youth.

Do you have any advice for students interested in your line of work and/or work you’ve done in the past?

I think my main advice for students who are interested in Interpreting/Translation would be to figure out whether they are more interested in interpreting or translating before beginning to study. I was lucky in that I was always interested more in interpreting and was able to find a graduate program at Wake Forest that focused heavily on interpreting (both simultaneous and consecutive), however there are many graduate programs that are translation heavy so it is important to know what you want to get out of the program before applying. As far as the non-profit sector goes, I would say be willing to be a jack of all trades, especially if you wind up at a small non-profit, and expect to have to do duties other than the main ones ascribed to your job title.

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