Melissa Baldo: A Positive Influence in the College of Business

Melissa Baldo

Becoming an attorney and then working with the United States Attorney’s Office wasn’t the pinnacle of Melissa Baldo’s career like she thought it would be. Teaching at Lamar University, something she never dreamed of doing, is.

Melissa graduated from the University of Texas and then earned her law degree from South Texas College of Law. She worked as an assistant district attorney in Houston and later as a district attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. When she got married and had children, she took time off to do the “mom thing.” When her kids were a little older, a friend suggested she teach business law as an adjunct professor at LU.

“I hadn’t thought of teaching, but it’s been my favorite job,” said Melissa. “I think it’s been the most satisfying job I’ve ever had; it’s just very rewarding.”

Melissa began working at LU in 2013 and is now an instructor who teaches two undergraduate courses - business law and business environment and public policy - and two graduate courses - leadership and negotiation as well as the legal framework of ports and trade for the Center for Advances in Port Management.

“I teach that we should show kindness to other people and recognize the value in every single person you encounter; you should have a strong work ethic. There are no short cuts to any place worth going. If you put in the work, you are going to see better results for your life.”

Her negotiation knowledge and skills have earned her speaking engagements in the port industry, and Melissa has traveled to the Port of Houston and the Port of San Diego to present information about how to conduct a successful negotiation.

“Negotiating is so important if you are a landlord port constantly going into leases with businesses but negotiating skills are good for everyone to know. At some time in life, you’re going to have to negotiate a salary and benefits, purchase a home.”

Students taking Melissa’s classes in the College of Business will learn some negotiating skills as well as some other practical life tools.

“I teach students that there is always a solution to every problem. Students, especially freshmen, get very upset if they have a conflict and won’t be able to attend a passport event or have a conflict with a test. I always tell them to relax. Small things work out. There is always a solution to any problem.”

Melissa has observed that students also get stressed about being called on to answer a question in class. As an attorney she recognizes the importance of public speaking and encourages students to embrace this life skill by sharing their thoughts in class.

“I don’t force them to speak out, but I get very excited to see some of my quiet or shy students do that. If they are talking out by the end of the semester, that’s important. It may seem like a small thing but it’s really not. Speaking out is an important skill for them to have.”

Melissa celebrates the seemingly small successes of her students and helps them realize they can accomplish more than they think they can.

“A few students, who have had perhaps challenging circumstances, need a little encouragement. They need someone to take an interest in them and encourage them and through that encouragement I’ve seen them become leaders, like LU ambassadors. It’s really great to see someone challenged and struggling then become a leader. That’s very rewarding. I think all of us teachers are proud when we see that happen.”

Melissa, a lawyer-mom, brings all that she is into the classroom. There’s the curriculum and course work, the life skills and then the personal “mom” philosophies.

“I teach that we should show kindness to other people and recognize the value in every single person you encounter; you should have a strong work ethic. There are no short cuts to any place worth going. If you put in the work, you are going to see better results for your life.”

She also tells her kids and her students that there is no reason to make people feel badly or to bring others down.

“Be a positive influence in other people. Say something uplifting. Say something positive to make someone’s day and to pay it forward. We should live with a positive philosophy to make someone feel good about themselves every single day. Why do the opposite? Where is the good in that?”

Admittedly, being positive during a global pandemic and an unprecedented time of uncertainty has been beyond challenging even for an optimist like Melissa. During the pandemic, her daughter graduated from law school but there was no ceremony. She and her husband, who are both attorneys, were looking forward to participating in a special “hooding” ceremony during the graduation. Her other daughter was supposed to complete an internship in Hawaii this summer but that got canceled, too.

“We’ve all had our own disappointments. Ours was small compared to some people. Others are struggling to find a place to stay. Comparatively, our struggles haven’t been anything great. It’s a different world, and we just need to weather the storm together.”

Further disappointing is the lack of interaction with her students during the COVID-19 quarantine. Melissa, like all LU instructors, transitioned to online teaching fairly easily, but she misses connecting with and encouraging students in the classroom.

“I value face-to-face interaction and think it is important. I want to tell all students to hang in there and don’t give up on your college career. Stay in college and get through it. Take classes online and stay the course.”

And when the pandemic is over, Melissa, who loves going to the beach, socializing and spending time with her family and friends, hopes there will be a lot of her favorite things she has been missing but also a lot of celebrating. “We should celebrate each other and be around other human beings without fear of making others sick. I’m just looking forward to living life free again without restraint.”

Category: General , Features

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