Carnegie Mellon University

Melissa and her cousin in Greece

April 19, 2021

CEE Spotlight: Melissa Ritchie

By CEE DEI Committee

Many of us know Melissa Ritchie as the departments’ Graduate Academic Coordinator who welcomes students with a big bowl of candy, fruit cups or granola bars in her office. Her itch for meeting and being around new people has made her a consistent welcoming face at the department. But many don’t know that she can speak four languages (five including English) or that she had spent eight years living abroad in Greece. Her own experience as the daughter of a mix of Greek, Italian, and French-Canadian parents has shaped her desire to learn from the diverse group of people at CMU.

Melissa’s upbringing was heavily influenced by the Greek side of her family. “I had an international upbringing, I’m too Greek for my friends who are non-Greek but when I was in Greece, I was too American for them.” The mix of cultures she was exposed to within her own family inspired her desire to travel, explore and meet people from all over the world. She remembers speaking Greek with her family in Greece, listening to her visiting cousins from Montreal speak French, and hearing her family from her dad’s side speak Italian. “I think people are fascinating and people from other places have a lot to teach you.”  

There are moments when Melissa does miss living abroad but she is able to find solace in the community that she built within the department. “I do sometimes miss living in Europe,” says Melissa, “I had so many different friends from different places. But that’s what makes this job so rewarding, because I get to meet all of you. People that come from India, China, Peru, etc., there are things I can learn from you right here in Pittsburgh.”

She recognizes that coming to a new city, state or even country can be a nerve-wracking experience. “It’s hard to say don’t be nervous or afraid because everyone is welcoming but you don’t know that going in.” To reassure the incoming and existing students, Melissa goes on to say, “Be yourself, be comfortable, know that you always have us. You’re part of a bigger family now, so don’t be afraid to come in and be yourself.”