Melia Ungson


Class of 2017


Having grown up with stories, music, dance, and food from the Filipino side of her family, Melia sought a course as an undergraduate that would bolster her understanding of the history and politics of the Philippines. What she found was an anthropology course on Southeast Asia, which solidified her academic and professional interest in the region. She has focused most of her work in the region on Laos thus far. She served as an intern in the Political/Economic Section of the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane, which sparked her interest in pursuing work with the U.S. Department of State. She felt passionate about returning to Laos, as she was fascinated by the critical discussions of environmental issues, the many foreign powers competing for influence, rebuilding relations after a troubled history, the pace of urbanization, and more. After graduating from Yale University, Melia returned to Laos as a research grantee under the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, where she pursued research and projects related to solid waste management in urban areas. Her work led her to many landfills, to help clean up after a major festival, and to a trash fashion show, among many other adventures.
Of course her interest in environmental issues extends beyond solid waste—she has studied water, renewable energy, and the environmental aspects of urbanization, with field work in contexts as varied as Ghana, India, and China. She also extended her stay in Laos after her Fulbright in order to work on a climate change vulnerability assessment for Laos with the Center for Development and Environment in Vientiane.

Melia graduated from UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy in 2017 as a Dean’s Fellow focused on environmental policy, Southeast Asia, and data analysis. As a 2016 Harold Rosenthal Fellow, she interned with the U.S. Government Accountability Office. She is now a data analyst at Fraym, where she is applying her quantitative analysis skill set to the context of African development.