Hunter Gradie and Melissa Yee Gradie

Cornell Institute for Public Affairs (CIPA) alumni Hunter Gradie M.P.A. ’12 and Melissa Yee Gradie B.S. ’10, M.P.A. ’11 are a Cornell couple, through and through.

The pair met during a CIPA capstone project, got engaged on campus, married in Sage Chapel, regularly speak with and advise students in Ithaca and New York City, and have recently made a pledge to support expanding career and professional development services offered by the CIPA program.

Hunter, Chief of Staff for the City of New York’s Department of Homeless Services, said he and Melissa feel that while their success is partially due to focus and work ethic, CIPA provided them with resources that propelled them forward and learning experiences that challenged them to become better leaders.

“CIPA provided me with the opportunity to conduct my research and study my interests, while at the same time refining the fundamentals I was looking for: hard skills around statistics, economics, thinking about systems and administration, and how to manage large, complex projects and organizations,” Hunter said.

Melissa, a senior associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers Advisory Services, has used what she learned as an undergraduate at the ILR School and CIPA in her work helping to transform human resource departments and businesses, and managing people through change.

The Gradies hope their pledge will encourage other alumni to consider how they can offer their time and resources to professional development opportunities for CIPA students.

“We’re excited to see where this all lands and we want to remind our fellow CIPA alumni that there is an opportunity to give back here. It doesn’t have to be just financial, though certainly financial is good. It is also about raising your hand to provide support to our CIPA students,” Hunter said.

Hunter explained that he and Melissa think of their pledge as an investment not only in the students and the program, but in their own future, and encourage other alumni to consider the same.

“Giving back to Cornell benefits not only the individuals who are receiving your financial resources and/or your time to review work, talk with, or mentor, it’s also about giving back to yourself. Any time you can help support or improve the education of the classes coming after you, the better the program – including the alumni – is perceived.

“The degree is worth more when the cohort that is coming out is a desirable cohort. It is our responsibility as alumni to share the knowledge we’ve gained in the working world with the students coming behind us so they can get better jobs, better experience, and provide real exposure to the quality that’s coming out of Cornell, CIPA and Human Ecology.

“I say this to alumni a lot: you should see your investment in these students not only as an investment in the individual or the program but also an investment in yourself. Their success is your success.”