After practicing as a corporate lawyer for 18 years, Melissa Young held leadership roles at two well-known local non-profit organizations: the University of Virginia Law School Foundation and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which owns and operates Monticello.
At the start of the semester, Young – who earned her law degree at U.Va. – has returned to Grounds in a new role: executive director of Madison House, the University’s clearinghouse for student volunteers.
A bit overwhelmed by everything new, she said she is excited to help continue the mission of the student volunteer center: to address the needs of the community, as well as the educational and personal growth objectives of students.
Young has spent her first few weeks getting to know the Madison House family, including its six staff members, alumni and student leaders – including the leaders of Madison House’s 19 programs and several program directors who work under each head, and some of the community partners – as they gathered to get organized, recruit volunteers and create schedules. Madison House volunteers work with more than 100 local organizations.
“It was a wonderful time to start because I was able to meet so many students,” Young said.
Working with students drew her to the job, she said. “They’re incredible, of such high caliber.”
In a welcome note on the Madison House website, Young wrote, “I can attest that these leaders are phenomenal examples of what Madison House is all about: service and leadership. They walk the walk and talk the talk.”
She also complimented her predecessor, Elizabeth Bass, who worked as executive director for 10 years and recently moved to Richmond.
Along with adding “enormous help to the community,” Madison House programs develop students’ leadership skills, she pointed out. In addition, one-third of the 23-member board of directors is made up of U.Va. students. More than half of each graduating class has volunteered with Madison House, according to the volunteer center’s statistics.
Serving with Madison House “compliments leadership skills students might have learned in the classroom by offering them real-life experiences to put those skills into practice,” she said.
Young recently attended a meeting with the Madison House Alumni Council, which is dedicated to building “a dynamic and responsive alumni organization that focuses on education, fundraising and networking,” according to its website.
“So many [alumni] said they benefitted from doing service as students, and their leadership skills enhanced their lives as adults,” Young said.
Founded by U.Va. students as an independent volunteer center, in its 44 year history Madison House has coordinated volunteers giving more than 3 million hours of service to the community.
With more than 3,000 students volunteering each week, Madison House is the largest student-run volunteer outfit at U.Va. – and an independent non-profit organization, as well. The group receives no direct funding from the University, except for the Student Council allocation it applies for each year.
Young hopes to increase community awareness of the value of that service time, using her background from her previous positions as chief executive officer of the Law School Foundation and vice president of external affairs at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.
“Melissa has a wide range of experience, which always comes in handy,” wrote Wayne Mogielnicki, former communications director at Monticello. “She’s good at big-picture strategy, but is also very pragmatic.”
Stephen West, a fourth-year student in the McIntire School of Commerce who co-chairs Madison House’s board of directors, said, “Melissa brings incredible non-profit experience to Madison House and has the passion to drastically increase our impact on the Charlottesville and University communities. ... I have been really impressed by her dedication to working with all of our student leaders and volunteers.”
She will be a great addition to the Madison House family, he added.
Acknowledging the talents of the staff and support of alumni and friends, Young said she is looking forward to being “part of an important legacy.”
“The greater support we have, the more we – Madison House – can do.”