PSD Spotlight: Melissa Salvo-Leadingham

June 16, 2021


Melissa Salvo-Leadingham

PSD’s June spotlight is Melissa “Mel” Salvo-Leadingham, financial administrator for the PSD-LBC. Mel has been with the University of Chicago since November, 2019.         

This year she is co-chairing the HLX Group with Cristina Corrigan of BSD, a new resource group for all employees interested in building Hispanic LatinX community across the PSD, BSD, and UChicago Medicine.

“We don’t want people to think this is ‘only’ for those of HLX origin or ethnicity or that we only speak Spanish, because that is not the case,” she said. “It is also for anyone who wants to learn about this diverse community. Even within our community, populations are very diverse. We want to learn from others as much as we want to teach.”

With funds from the PSD EDI Inclusive Climate Grants, HLX is planning celebrations for Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 – October 15. They are also gathering at a Pride celebration called Northalsted Market Days as a way to promote HLX respect for inclusion, and will sponsor a table August 6-8 in Boy’s Town.

The PSD is excited to have a new employee resource group engaging with our D&I values and mission and want our members to get to know Mel better. We interviewed her about her interests and experiences below.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Miami, Florida. I was head-hunted and recruited to be the knowledge base and processing manager for a Chicago start-up in 2013. I never once looked back. Chicago is now my home.   

What do you enjoy about being a part of the PSD community?

I love the diversity that is within the PSD community. We are a beautiful and engaging melting pot. The people that make up the PSD are also quite warm and welcoming. From Day One, I have always received offers of help and information any time that I have needed it from colleagues.

Tell us a bit about you.

I am an empty-nester, and obsessed with my dogs. I currently have a 3.5-year-old Shih Tzu named Macie that can be caught on a Zoom meeting from time to time. We are waiting on her little brother, Gideon, who will be coming home June 28th.

Who inspires you?

The women ahead of me, next to me and behind me (including my three girls). The strength and resilience of women overall is phenomenal and inspires me. It reminds me that I can do absolutely anything. That philosophy has helped me to raise my three daughters with the same fire lit deep down. They can do anything.

What is the most interesting thing that you are working on right now?

My work is truly interesting. Not the mathematics and all the administrative tasks, but actually reading the science behind what some of my faculty are doing in their research proposals and awards. I am fascinated with what the Department of Computer Science and their faculty are currently doing.

What inspired the founding of the HLX employee resource group?

Our Mission for HLX is to unify LatinX members of the University of Chicago and the University of Chicago Medical Center by creating a sense of community, building a network, and celebrating cultural traditions. HLX aims to further the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion by creating a welcoming environment that promotes professional and personal development, and career advancement.

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?

Diversity and Inclusion means welcoming everyone, no matter what they look like, sound like, or act like. They, and everything each individual comes with, are always part of the party...period.

I thank my parents daily for my level of tolerance and teaching me true diverse love. When I was nine, my little brother passed away and we changed churches. From the age of 9-18, I went to a church for the Deaf and Handicapped where I picked up American Sign Language and also got my first taste of service to others.

My parents were in charge of the Feeding the Homeless Ministry, so every third Saturday of the month I was out there with them. Even as an adult, when I would come home on leave from the Marines, I would still go out there and offer my help.

In addition to this, both of my parents were teachers at inner city schools in Miami. I couldn't imagine myself not helping someone based on any kind of difference. My parents taught me to always pay it forward and help those less fortunate than myself.

Who had the most influence on you growing up?

My Mother. Everything that I am today, and the skill sets that I possess, came from her. Most of the way that I raised my three daughters also came from her—and with her assistance part of the time. My strength, my work ethic, my independence, my morals, and my grit all were ingrained in me by her from a young age. Although she might tell you I am way more of a fighter and more straightforward than she is! She was exceptionally diplomatic…but for me, not so much! Unfortunately, my mom passed away in 2004, and this was the biggest life-changing moment for me and when I truly became a "grown up.”

What three words best describe you?

Loyal, Optimistic, and Dedicated

If they made a movie about your life, what genre would it be and who would play you?

Definitely an action movie with a lot of drama. Or possibly just a thriller...

My life has been an adventure to date and I have no doubts that it will continue. I wouldn't have it any other way because I wouldn't be where I am today.

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