Public relations grad advocates for those with eating disorders, mental illness

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

Melody Pierce knows the power of storytelling.

When she graduates May 7 with her bachelor’s in journalism and mass communication with a public relations emphasis from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, she will make a career of giving others a voice through their stories.

But along the way, she has shared her own story in hopes that her voice will help others.

At age 10, Pierce began having eating disorder thoughts and was diagnosed at age 16. She began treatment soon after and has been in recovery since.

During her treatment, she noticed that no one was really out there sharing their experiences with eating disorders. Because of this, she decided to become an advocate for those dealing with eating disorders and mental illness. She knew her story would have an impact.

“I went through the journey and came out on the other side,” Pierce said. “It’s a choice in recovery to wake up and fight.”

Now, she is recognized locally and nationally as an eating disorder advocate — sharing the good and bad days, helping others realize they’re not alone and inspiring them to keep fighting.

At ASU, Pierce served as president of the ASU Eating Disorder Recovery and Awareness club and was an active board member for Recovery Rising, an organization that supports students in recovery.

Outside of ASU, she is on the planning committee for the annual National Eating Disorder Association Walk and a board member for the Andy Hull Sunshine Foundation for suicide prevention and awareness.

She is also involved with the Miss America Organization, where she is currently Miss Arcadia and will compete for Miss Arizona in June. She used her Miss Arcadia platform, S.T.E.P.S. Toward Eating Disorder Recovery and Awareness, to develop a curriculum to educate fourth- through sixth-graders about eating disorders and body positivity.

With her passion and talent, Pierce will continue to make an impact through the power of storytelling through sharing her own story or giving voice to others who have their own experiences to share. 

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? 

Answer: I have always been interested in storytelling, but it wasn't until I realized that there are so many voices who are not being represented that I knew I wanted to major in journalism. I went the public relations route with my degree with the hope to give a voice to nonprofits and all of the dreamers and doers of Arizona by getting them the earned media they deserve. 

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: Everyone has a story. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: The Walter Cronkite School is one of a kind. I realized very quickly into my college career that this program (produces) some of the most outstanding professionals in the journalism industry, so I knew that was something I had to be a part of. 

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

A: Find your community. Getting involved with Recovery Rising, the Miss America Organization and ASU Eating Disorder Recovery and Awareness were the best decisions I've ever made. Having that support system behind you on the good and bad days is what will truly push you through getting this degree and being successful in the long run. 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: Any Starbucks. I am a major coffee addict — I blame my degree — and if I'm not in class, you can probably find me in or around a Starbucks. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I have accepted a position as an account coordinator at The Knight Agency in Scottsdale. I will also be competing for Miss Arizona in June. 

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

A: Eating disorders! I'm sure that goes without saying now that you've read all of this, but eating disorders are the deadliest mental illness and continue to receive little to no funding. I would use that $40 million to join with one of my favorite nonprofits, Circles of Change, here in Arizona to help fund community members’ recovery. The average treatment stay can cost a family more than $50,000, so I would like to provide a treatment sponsorship program to individuals because everyone deserves recovery and to be free of this disease.