From Residential Education to House Representative: Melissa Wintrow

Many know Melissa Wintrow from her extensive work at Boise State since 2000 as the Women’s Center Director, Assistant Director for Residence Life, an Instructor, and Assistant Director for Residential Education. Those who have been lucky enough to cross paths with her are met with success, dedication to others, and an overall warm and welcoming personality. In 2015, Melissa sat down for her first session as a member of the Idaho House of Representatives. Last week, Melissa sat down with Her Campus Boise State to give us exclusive insight into the upcoming legislative session along with some generally great advice for college students.

Melissa was born and raised in Troy, OH which is a town of about 20,000 north of Dayton. On her education, she told us, “I received my Bachelor’s in English Literature from Miami University – after first trying Business and French Literature – while spending three years working as a Resident Assistant.” If you’re wondering where Melissa first found her love for education, this was it! Melissa Wintrow then continued her education at the University of Georgia where she received her Master’s in Higher Education. The more we talked with Melissa, the more she emphasized that college was when she truly realized that the question of ‘What am I going to do?’ is far less important than the question of ‘Who am I going to be?’ When Melissa said this, we couldn’t help but ask her what tips she had for success (considering what a successful woman she is herself!) and her answer was right in line; She said “A lot of people want something so bad that when it doesn’t come, that’s when it’s disappointing. The best advice I can give is don’t get stuck on craving the goal, be present and enjoy the journey. Always ask yourself ‘what can I learn from this?’” Seems like wonderful advice to us!

Here at Her Campus Boise State, we found Melissa’s transition from Higher Education to House Representative both intriguing and inspiring, so we obviously had to ask what she thought about her new duties and what she thought was in store for this year’s legislative session! Melissa said the most rewarding part of her position “is when a constituent calls and I’m able to appropriately connect them and help them maneuver a system in which they may feel stuck. Constituent work is actually very similar to helping students when they come to you and you have to help them maneuver the education system to get them to their end goal of graduation.” Of course, as we expected, Melissa assures us that there is a fair share of challenges that come with her position, especially as a minority representative. “We are really out of balance right now [in the legislature] and anytime that happens, negative things happen. We need more balance and need to negotiate in order to bring all ideas forward. It becomes difficult to represent voices when something is so out of power and that’s my greatest responsibility: to represent voices of the minority.”

In Idaho, we have seen many issues rise to the forefront of the political sphere in the last few years from education to social justice issues. As someone representing the minority in the state, we were interested to see what was on the forefront of Melissa Wintrow’s mind moving into the legislative session. She told us “it’s important to remember that issues at the forefront of my mind, may not be at the forefront of others. Education is one I think many of us will agree on because not only do we have a low number of high school graduates moving onto college, but we also find that many college graduates are leaving the state. It’s important to think about because we have to ask ourselves ‘what talent pool does this leave us with in our workforce?’” Along with education, Melissa referenced the importance of social justice issues – including economic – being hugely important in our fight to increase the “quality of life; our state is poor and struggling, and unfortunately there are legislators not representing the voices of their constituents.”

We were honored to sit down and get to know more about Melissa Wintrow, her story, and her goals for the future as our state moves forward. Melissa left us with a piece of parting advice that we thought we would pass it along, especially as many of you work your way through the higher education system. “We must still have hope and show that we will not give up!” she said. “Persevere. We can succeed not because of the system, but in spite of it. We may be swimming upstream but we are strong.”