Meet Melissa Kissi: An SCSU Alumna and Campus Advocate

Melissa Kissi earned her Bachelors in Social work at Southern in 2012, before receiving a masters of Social Work degree from UConn. Melissa is currently a University Victim Advocate and Prevention Specialist in the Violence Prevention, Victim Advocacy and Support Center (VPAS) at SCSU. In her role as an advocate, Melissa provides individualized support to students who experience sexual violence. Melissa organizes our campus Peer Education program and serves as the advisor to the student group P.E.A.C.E, Peer Educators Advocating for Campus Empowerment. Melissa is one of the most compassionate members of our Southern community, and an incredible resource for students. Here she discusses her experience studying at SCSU, and her passion for helping others!

HC: What was your favorite part of being a student on campus? 

MK: My favorite part about being a student on campus were the opportunities to get involved. I commuted, so I found it important to get connected on campus. I chose to get involved with the VPAS office, and Peer Education club when I was a student.

HC: Why did you become a University Victim Advocate?

MK: I always knew that I wanted to help people I just wasn’t exactly sure how. When I learned how prevalent sexual violence and dating/domestic violence are, and learned that some people in my life had experienced it, I knew that I wanted to do something to make a change. What really influenced me was working at the office as a student worker when I was an undergrad at Southern. While I didn’t do advocacy, I was involved in prevention education through the Peer Education club and I knew from engaging in that work that I could make a difference by providing information on resources, and awareness of the issues.  Then, I decided to pursue my degrees in Social Work, and the rest is history!

HC: What is your favorite part of being an advocate on campus?

MK: I enjoy being able to meet students and make sure that they know they are not alone, and that they are believed. Sometimes I am the only person in their life that they choose to tell, or who believes them and supports them. Empowerment is really the key word with advocacy; I make sure that students have choices, can make informed choices on their own time, and feel supported no matter what choice they make.

 HC: What VPAS program or event do you enjoy the most?

MK: My favorite VPAS event is for sure Take Back the Night. It’s a lot different from any of our other events. Its aim is awareness and has an open mic speak out and rally for survivors and supporters to share their story or thoughts/feelings on sexual violence, and surviving and thriving. It is about hearing survivors’ voices and supporting them. Our office staff really does a lot of planning for the event, but it would not happen without the courage, strength and support of the students who attend and choose to share in the event. It’s really powerful and held annually in April, this is its 20th year at Southern and it is on April 18 @ 7 pm in the Residence Life Quad, with the pre-rally on April 17 from 12-3 p.m. on the Buley Patio.

HC: How do you handle stress and practice self-care?

MK: I love to go on hiking adventures and camping. I only camp once a year but try to get outside and hike semi frequently—I can do better with this, but I really enjoy the fresh air and being with nature’s smells, sights and sounds. It is really a great way to reflect and just breathe!

I also love to read. My favorite author is Jodi Picoult. Whenever I read her books, I get so immersed and cannot get enough of them. I feel slightly sad when I finish any of her books because they are so riveting. That is how books should make you feel, I think!

HC: Where is your favorite place on campus?

MK: I really enjoy walking all around campus, especially inside in the colder weather! The newer buildings like the Science Building and Buley are just beautiful. I love the library because I’m just a dork and actually volunteered in high school and worked at a public library in college. I love seeing the thousands of books on so many different topics, where you can just get lost in and find something interesting.

 

If you would like more information about the VPAS office, or Melissa’s role as an advocate, click here.