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2020 grad is 1st to earn degree in organizational leadership with project management focus

Melanie Roemer: ‘I found I was supposed to be a project manager!’

ASU graduate Melanie Roemer

Melanie Roemer completed the BA in organizational leadership with a concentration in project management online while working full time at PayPal in Chandler, Arizona.

May 01, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

You know how you can be apartment or house hunting and walk into a space you know you were meant to live in?

That’s the feeling ASU graduate Melanie Roemer had intellectually during her first week in Jennifer Chandler’s course OGL 320: Foundations of Project Management.

“It was my third semester at ASU (fall 2018) and within the first week of the course, I realized I was supposed to be a project manager!” recalled Roemer, who lives in San Tan Valley and has completed her degree through ASU Online. “I felt comfortable, normal, and like my search for what I ‘should’ be doing with my life was answered. It was really natural, and I found myself wanting to know as much as possible about being a good project manager.”

This week she’s graduating summa cum laude from ASU’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts with a Bachelor of Arts in organizational leadership and is the first student at ASU to complete this degree with the concentration in project management.

Roemer had been on track to finish her organizational leadership major in fall 2019, but as soon as she learned that the new concentration was an option, she contacted her adviser and changed course.

“It pushed my graduation date out two more semesters, but I'm so happy I did it,” she said. “The extra coursework helped my understanding of project management immensely.”

Roemer is rightly proud of having completed the degree with a 4.0 GPA while working full time, a goal she set for herself when she was first admitted to ASU. 

“There were times when I was working and going to school full time that it felt like too much, but I’m glad that I dug in harder to reach my goals,” she observed. “In my time at ASU I’ve learned perseverance and the importance of setting goals.”  

After graduation, Roemer plans to take a short break and then go through the PMP (Project Management Professional) self-paced course offered by ASU Career and Professional Education, in preparation to take the PMP exam certification through the Project Management Institute. 

“I want to move into a role on a project management office team within PayPal where I work,” she said. “I’m also thinking about starting a master’s degree in the spring of 2021, but haven’t decided if that’s the route I want to take.

“I'm most excited to be part of a bigger organizational group that works cross-functionally across a large business to ensure teammates have access to tools and training they need,” she emphasized. “I love getting into the details of creating training products, launching them and reworking them. It makes me happy to know that I'm making an impact on the overall business for years to come.”

Roemer shared some additional reflections about her ASU journey.

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: I chose to attend ASU because of ASU’s innovation and availability of online degrees. I’m unable to attend classes in person because I have two preexisting medical conditions that make being on campus very difficult. Walking all around campus is not something I am able to do because I have pulmonary hypertension. I have an oxygen concentrator that helps, but I am short of breath even while using it. I get tired easily. I also have a condition called common variable immunodeficiency (CVID) which means my body doesn’t produce any antibodies. It makes me very susceptible to illness. I wanted to protect myself, and going to school online was the perfect solution for me.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?  

A: Dr. Stephen Davis taught me how to be an effective leader through his Assessment of Leadership class. It was one of the hardest classes I took in my time at ASU and my favorite. I am constantly rethinking how I can become a better leader. We were also inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa together in the same class!

Dr. Margaret Allen taught me the value of being patient with myself. This semester has been very draining emotionally and physically, but she told me in one of our emails to breathe, and I took it to heart. It made all of the difference in my outlook for the rest of the semester.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Contact your professor if you’re struggling! They’re humans, too, and want to see you succeed!

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: I curated a space out of our spare bedroom with a desk, tapestry and day bed. My favorite place is to snuggle into the day bed with a couple of our dogs and write papers. They like to keep me company. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: Given the situation the world is in because of the coronavirus, I would like to work on the problem of public health. There are so many people who don’t have access to health care, and those who do, sometimes cannot afford it. In 2014, I was diagnosed with sepsis and spent 30 days in the hospital. During my stay and for the appointments that followed, I accrued almost $1 million in medical debt. No one should have to worry about their livelihood while their body is healing.

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