Fellow Spotlight: Melanie Friedrichs, Brown University


Name: Melanie Friedrichs

Hometown: Bethesda, MD

University: Brown ‘12

Major: Economics


What led you to apply for Venture for America?

Two great ideas: fostering an entrepreneurial generation, and revitalizing America’s urban centers.

What were you doing when you found out you were accepted?

I was sitting on my bed checking email. It wasn’t very interesting.

This is the story of how I decided to accept VFA, which is a little more interesting. I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to become a VFA fellow when I applied. I was torn between working in business and doing research; the former was more appealing in the short run because I love the pace and dynamism of the private sector, particularly entrepreneurship, but the latter would have better prepared me for graduate school and a career in academia, a long run goal I’ve often found appealing.

On the Saturday after I was accepted (I asked for more time) I went to study in J Walter Wilson, a building at Brown with many classrooms popular for study groups. Miraculously, the best room in the building was open: the “chandelier room” on the top floor that offers panoramic views of Providence.

The sun was just beginning to set, and I thought, fate is telling me that it’s time to make life decisions. I wrote pro-con lists for both the research job I was considering and VFA on the whiteboard: “Creation” “Implementation” “The World of Ideas” “The World of Application” “Means to an Certain End” “End to an Uncertain End” and “Risk” (on both sides) and transcribed the entirety of Ruaryd Kipling’s “If.” Then I sat on one of the tables and watched the sunset.

After two hours I realized that all ends can be reached in many ways, and that by limiting myself to a defined path (the research > grad school > academia path) I was ignoring opportunities that I aren’t as clear cut but are more exciting and more adaptable to my personality, my skills, and my goals.

Now that you’re a fellow, what are you most excited about with regard to VFA? What do you hope to accomplish?

I’m most excited about my fellow fellows! I was super impressed with everyone I met at the selection day and I can’t wait to get to know them more. I’m also excited about the entrepreneurship boot camp. I haven’t had any formal business training and am looking forward to learning and discussing concepts and techniques with the other fellows.

I also really hope to use these two years to think about my long-term goals, in entrepreneurship or other, and how to achieve them!

If you had to live one place for the rest of your life, where would you choose?

That’s not fair. I haven’t been everywhere yet! Right now probably Burlington, VT. Lake, Mountains, funky urban scene, and not too big. I know I don’t want to spend my entire life in a metropolis.

Best thing about Brown: Prospect Park

Favorite Book: Watership Down

Favorite childhood TV show: Sailor Moon

Favorite meal: Steak, corn on the cob & tomato-basil salad. Although I’m conflicted about the steak.

Role model: Everyone has traits I admire, and nobody has all of them. I try to emulate the best of what I see around me rather than try to copy someone specific.

Favorite holiday: Christmas

Best class you’ve ever taken: Classics of Political Economy

Favorite movie quote: “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, Commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.” (Gladiator)

Favorite thing to do on Sunday: Practice! Play Ultimate Frisbee, 9:00 AM, Every Sunday, Love it.

Favorite entrepreneur: Jacqueline Novogratz of the Acumen Fund.

Favorite cereal: Cracklin’ Oat Bran. (I just heard we are on Brown’s meal plan for the summer. All the fellows will come to know and love Cracklin’ Oat Bran).

Most worn article of clothing: Red sweater. p>

Favorite sports team: Disco Inferno (my ultimate team). Michael Phelps.

Best trip you’ve ever been on: Study Abroad (Comparative Urban Studies, New York, Delhi, India, Dakar, Senegal, and Buenos Aires, Argentina).

Favorite historical figure: Adam Smith

Accomplishment you’re most proud of: Keeping the balance.

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