People Matter: Mellissa Oliver

December 21, 2016

Mellissa Oliver knew by the time she was in middle school that she wanted to work in the AEC field, inspired by the grandness of built environments and a love for art.

Growing up in Greensboro, North Carolina, she remembers taking car rides with her mom, and “looking out the window and seeing all these great structures – tall buildings and bridges.” By high school, Mellissa had decided to study civil engineering. “I just knew that I wanted to be a part of something that creates places that we, as individuals, would use, but also would endure for a long time.”

Pride in what you do matters.

Mellissa joined LandDesign’s Charlotte office in 2013, working under Nate Doolittle, primarily on projects in the Uptown Charlotte area. She enjoys the challenges that come with designing projects with limited urban space. “How are we going to create something on this small piece of land that both benefits the community and provides a place they want to enjoy?”

There are many people involved in a project, and when we all come together to make it happen, it’s just wonderful.

It seems car rides are a reoccurring muse in Mellissa’s career. Discussing what excites her the most about her work, she tells about driving around Charlotte with her in-laws.

“They came for a visit and we were driving to dinner. On this one street, there were three projects I was involved in. Now, I realize there are many people involved in a project, and when we all come together to make it happen, it’s just wonderful. But, to be able to tell my husband’s parents I was part of creating that was an amazing feeling.” Just like she imagined it would be all those years ago, driving around Greensboro with her mom.

Getting involved in the community matters.

From a young age until now, mentors and role models have been important influences in Mellissa’s life and she is passionate about paying it forward.

It’s something that my heart tells me to do.

Three years ago, she began volunteering with the ACE Mentor Program of Charlotte, working with students from Ardrey Kell High School. ACE is an after-school program for young people interested in exploring career opportunities in architecture, construction and engineering. Each year, teams compete to present their final projects.

“I remember the first year, sitting in the audience and watching all the teams present their projects. At the end, they announced the winner. It was Ardrey Kell. Driving home that night, I just kept thinking, ‘They won!’ I was so excited.”

CREW Charlotte is another organization that is benefitting from Mellissa’s commitment to volunteerism. In December, she received the organization’s annual Rising Star award that honors an up-and-coming member who has made an impact in the organization.

René Whitesell was Mellissa’s first mentor – an assigned lunch buddy in elementary school – and the two have remained close. Driving home from the ACE competition. Mellissa called René in tears, overwhelmed to be part of her students’ success, just like René was there for her. “It’s something that my heart tells me to do, and René was a big part of that.”