“Meet a Mentor” with Melissa Cordero!

Oct. 25, 2023
Melissa Cordero headshot

Photo taken by photographer Julius Schlosburg, at Sonoran Institute's Summer Solstice Party & Conservation Benefit.

Meet Melissa Cordero, an Earth Grant mentor, as she tells us about her professional journey and current work at the Sonoran Institute, based in Tucson. From her early work in community service and social justice to her driving passions for community building and intentional storytelling, Melissa’s wealth of experience and dedication illustrate a powerful narrative about the importance of her profession.

Tell us a little about yourself, your community (however you define it), and your current professional role.
I'm currently working as a Marketing Manager at Sonoran Institute. I have a deep passion for conservation, and I genuinely love the organization and the incredible work we do. Sonoran Institute plays a pivotal role in connecting people and communities to the natural resources that sustain us. Beyond my professional role, I'm actively engaged in various community positions. These include serving on the board of the Tucson LGBT Chamber of Commerce, being a part of the Social Justice Committee with Downtown Tucson Partnership, and participating in steering committees for both Pride Rotary Tucson and Tucson Ward 1 Participatory Budget (Budget De La Gente).  I hold Master's degrees in psychology and business. Originally from Guam, my diverse cultural experiences significantly influenced my work and community involvement. Furthermore, I bring eight years of military service, which instilled in me discipline and a strong sense of duty, contributing to my dedication to both community service and professional goals.

What was an early experience that inspired your values or interests in this kind of work?
An early experience that profoundly shaped my values and interests in this line of work was my active involvement in community service, particularly in the realm of social justice. Serving in various capacities, I observed firsthand the disproportionate impact that limited resources, especially natural ones, have on marginalized communities. This realization underscored the interconnection between social justice and conservation. It became clear that when resources are scarce, it's marginalized communities that bear the brunt of the consequences. This stark reality fueled my commitment to addressing these issues. My core values, therefore, revolve around the principles of speaking up and taking intentional action to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. Whether as a participant or a leader, I carry these values into all my endeavors, as I recognize the intrinsic link between social justice and the responsible stewardship of our natural resources.

What education or experiences helped prepare you for this role?
Several key experiences and educational paths have played a pivotal role in preparing me for my current role. My time in the military and my involvement as an athlete during my formative years significantly contributed to my leadership skills. I was fortunate to have mentors during these phases of my life who continue to inspire me today. These mentors exemplified the qualities of good leadership, and their influence has had a lasting impact on my approach to leadership and community engagement. In my educational journey, I was privileged to have teachers and mentors who went above and beyond. They had a unique ability to connect with each student, emphasizing their strengths rather than focusing solely on areas that needed improvement. This personalized and strengths-based approach to education instilled in me a deep appreciation for the power of recognizing and harnessing individual strengths, a perspective that I carry into my current role in community and environmental engagement.

What are some pros and cons of your job?
Working as a Marketing Manager at the Sonoran Institute offers a unique blend of job satisfaction and meaningful impact. The organization's unwavering commitment to environmental conservation and sustainability aligns with my values, making my work feel like a personal mission. My role directly contributes to the funding of projects that not only protect the environment but also enhance the well-being of communities. Witnessing the tangible results of our efforts, such as the successful completion of conservation projects, is inherently rewarding. Additionally, I have the opportunity to network with a diverse group of individuals who share my passion for environmental conservation, creating valuable connections that can further the organization's mission.

However, one of the prominent challenges of being a Marketing Manager at the Sonoran Institute is the perpetual need to meet fundraising goals. The consistent demand for financial support can be stressful and demanding. While you may wish to inject an element of fun and enjoyment into the fundraising process, the reality often necessitates asking for financial contributions. Striking a balance between maintaining an engaging, enjoyable approach and meeting crucial fundraising targets can be a complex task. Moreover, cultivating and nurturing lasting connections between individuals and the organization's work requires ongoing effort. Building and maintaining strong relationships with donors and supporters can be time-consuming, yet it is an essential component of my role as a Marketing Manager.

What’s a common misconception people have about your work? Any myths you’d like to bust?
A common misconception about my work as a Marketing Manager at Sonoran Institute is that it primarily involves creating advertisements and promotional materials. While these aspects are indeed part of the role, the broader focus is often misunderstood. The truth is, as a Marketing Manager, I'm responsible for much more than just design and promotion. My work encompasses building and nurturing meaningful relationships with the community, donors, and partners. It involves creating compelling narratives that resonate with people's values and passions and, always, asking for their support in the form of donations. It's about continuous engagement and education, forging connections between individuals and the vital work that Sonoran Institute does. In essence, it's not just about marketing; it's about fostering deep, enduring connections that drive positive change in our environment and communities.