Alumna strives to be the role model she wishes she had

Michelle Meierotto serves her alma mater as a mentor and educator

L to R: CATALYST mentor and public health alumna Michelle Meierotto and her mentee Carly Watkins

As a young adult, Michelle Meierotto, ’02, wished she had a strong professional female role model. When the College of Public Health and Human Sciences introduced its CATALYST Mentoring Program, she jumped on the opportunity.

“I’m 42 years old, and I feel like my generation was the last generation of predominantly stay-at-home moms,” the public health alumna says. “I didn’t have a lot of influence of strong professional women in my life.”

She means this as no disservice to her mom, but believes this background contributed to a steep learning curve. “Getting into the working world was more of a struggle for me,” Michelle says. “My focus is to be a professional female role model to another female.”

Michelle currently works for Housecall Providers as a community liaison. Her mentee, Carly Watkins, is a sophomore majoring in Public Health and is pursuing both Health Management and Policy, and Health Promotion and Health Behavior degree options.

To Michelle’s surprise, her mentee doesn’t have the same need for a female role model as she did at her age.

“My mentee is a go-getter and has done more than I have,” Michelle says. “I’ve learned this generation has grown up with more examples of two working parents.”

Regardless, Michelle still believes it’s important to be an example of a strong professional female.

Michelle also exemplifies generosity. “My view of the professional world is that the only way we can remain professional is to share our information,” Michelle says. “We can bring up the whole profession by sharing. It helps us all in the long run.”

In her position, Michelle loves developing one-on-one relationships and educating people about palliative and hospice care. These traits also make her an influential mentor.

Every month, Michelle and Carly jump on the phone to discuss what Carly is learning in class or a topic they’ve previously chosen.

“Carly went to an advocacy day at the Oregon State Capitol and we discussed that she learned,” Michelle says. “Often we decide the topic ahead of time and each review articles to discuss.”

As Carly is still deciding which direction to take her career, Michelle wants to help her eliminate options and broaden her perspective on what she could pursue. She also aims to introduce Carly to new topics.

“I work with end-of-life patients, which is a subject that’s somewhat taboo,” Michelle says. “I hope our discussions help open her to more thoughts about it.”

Carly says she has indeed learned more about health care in Oregon – and about different career opportunities within the public health field. She found their meetings fulfilling and encourages fellow students to apply to the mentorship program.

“It is a really rewarding experience, especially if you uphold your mentorship throughout the entire year so your mentor and you can reflect on the growth that has happened throughout the year,” Carly says.

Michelle’s says that the advice she’s received and would like to pass along to current female students is to learn how to negotiate – for salary and generally.

“I think since men have been in the workplace longer, they tend to be in a better place and approach negotiations from a less self-centered perspective,” Michelle says. “Don’t take it personally when you’re in negations. This skill is really valuable in the professional world.”

The CATALYST Mentorship Program fosters relationships and creates opportunities for CPHHS students and working professionals. This seven-month program for undergraduate and graduate students spans the fall, winter and spring terms of the academic year. A mentor is matched with a student based on mutual career interests, and one-hour meetings occur each month in person or online. Become a mentor or mentee with the CATALYST Mentorship Program.