NAME: Melanie Miller, 28
HEBREW NAME: Miriam Leah
CURRENTLY LIVING IN: Chicago
ALMA MATERS: Marblehead High School ’08, Colgate University ’12, Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University’18
JOB: Senior marketing associate, CreditNinja
FAVORITE FOOD: Sushi and ramen
FAVORITE MUSIC: Taylor Swift
FAVORITE MOVIES: “A Star is Born,” “La La Land.”
FAVORITE TV SHOWS: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Friends”
FAVORITE TRAVEL DESTINATIONS: Favorite trip was to East Africa – I went to Kenya, Rwanda, and Zanzibar and it was phenomenal. Really high up on the list to go to is Japan – hence the sushi and ramen.
FAVORITE JEWISH PERSON NOT IN YOUR FAMILY: Julia Louis Dreyfus
FAVORITE JEWISH HOLIDAY: I’ve always been a big fan of Rosh Hashanah – we used to have really fun family dinners and it’s generally happy – I like the shofar.
WHAT IS YOUR JEWISH BACKGROUND?
I went to North Shore Hebrew School and Temple Sinai. I also went to Camp Tevya for many summers and did the Dor L’Dor Israel program with them. I also did Prozdor after North Shore Hebrew School until senior year, so pretty much always doing something. We would go to services not weekly, but a decent amount growing up – observing all the major holidays for sure. In college, I was involved a bit with our Jewish Union – we didn’t call it Hillel, but the Colgate Jewish Union; we definitely did the holidays and sometimes would go to Shabbat dinner with my Jewish friends. Now, I still practice in terms of holidays – when I’m back home, I’ll go to Sinai, and I’m involved with less of a religious thing, but with the Illinois Holocaust Museum, because I’m living in Chicago now.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR WORK WITH THE ILLINOIS HOLOCAUST MUSEUM AND EDUCATION CENTER?
I just finished up my MBA at Kellogg Northwestern in June, and through Kellogg, they have a program where they match students with local nonprofits, so I elected to be matched with the Illinois Holocaust Museum. So I would attend board meetings, and I also did a consulting project with them where I made recommendations on how they could strengthen their Women’s Leadership Committee and Young Professional Committee, and then after graduation, decided to stay involved. It’s been a really good experience. Both my grandparents on my mom’s side were Holocaust survivors, so that’s kind of why I was interested in it, and some of the board members are Holocaust survivors. One of the initiatives I got to see the Holocaust Museum launch while I was working with them was these holograms, and it’s a really, really unique way where they filmed for hours and hours the stories of these survivors, and forever and ever, people will be able to hear their stories and actually ask them questions and engage with them, so that exhibit opened in the fall of 2017, but I’d gotten to see some of the mockups first, and now I’ve seen it live. It’s a theater, and there’s someone moderating, so people can raise their hands, and they’ll ask a question, and the moderator will repeat it into the podium, and the hologram answers. They came up with thousands and thousands of potential questions, and coded it in a way that a lot of the questions are getting at the same story.
WHAT HAS YOUR CAREER TRAJECTORY BEEN?
After Colgate, I moved to New York and worked there for four years, mainly in the nonprofit sector, doing work related to financial literacy and college readiness with high school students, so educational programs in those areas, working mainly with inner-city schools in New York City and also nationally as well. And then in the fall of 2016, I started my MBA at Kellogg and finished that this past June, and that took me to Northwestern and Evanston, and I decided to stay in Chicago so I’ve been living here in the city for six months, and I’m doing marketing at a financial technology startup in the online marketing space.
CAN YOU TALK MORE ABOUT TEACHING FINANCIAL LITERACY?
The first year I was in New York, I did a fellowship where I did one-on-one financial coaching with low-income individuals, and a lot of it was through the community colleges. It made me think, ‘Oh, I grew up fortunate enough to have parents that were able to provide for me,’ and not everyone obviously has that. But not only that, not everybody knows what really to do when it comes to student loans, or credit cards, or whatever, so when the fellowship was ending, I looked for other opportunities in the space, and found this nonprofit that was doing a lot of work there, and it was really great to see what this education can do for students. It’s not something that’s taught a lot, but it’s so critical for people. They’re learning about chemistry and physics and whatever, but they don’t actually know how to pay off their credit card.