Announcing Bridge keynote speaker: Melannie Denise Cunningham

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SOWA is excited to welcome Melannie Denise Cunningham to this year’s Bridge Conference, Forging Brighter Futures.

Melannie is a Tacoma-based thought leader and practitioner who has excelled as an educator, social justice activist, scholar, entrepreneur, and humanitarian. Her leadership spans diverse industries, profoundly impacting college administration, youth development, government service, broadcast media, and more.

Reflecting first, so that we can move toward connection and reimagining.

Melannie will kick off Bridge Conference 2023 by grounding our experience in the initial theme of reflection. By inviting us to reflect on our biases and individual journeys, we can then embrace the learning and unlearning that’s needed for real connection. We believe this is the starting point to collectively reimagine and then create the holistic and supportive environments young people need to thrive.

Learn more about Bridge Conference 2023!

About Melannie Denise Cunningham

For more than four decades, Melannie has held transformative roles in government and higher education.  She served as Equal Employment Opportunity Officer for the Department of the Navy and the City of Tacoma and as Materials Manager for the State of Washington. Since 2006, she has been at Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) where she currently serves as Director of Anti-Racist Leadership Education in the Professional and Continuing Education department.  

Recognized for her commitment to racial reconciliation, Melannie earned the esteemed Peace Laureate award in 2018. This honor led her to Oslo, Norway where she attended the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and filmed the impactful documentary “Peace Queen” which chronicles her journey.  As Executive Producer, she secured a Northwest Regional Emmy Award, recognizing and celebrating her dedication to meaningful narratives. 

Beyond her achievements, Melannie deeply engages with her community—contributing to Northwest Harvest’s Board of Directors and the South Sound Leadership Foundation. She is a proud “Charter Line Member” of the Xi Psi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. at Washington State University (WSU)  and boasts 43 years of belonging to the esteemed sisterhood. 

Melannie’s academic journey parallels her career, including a Bachelor’s from WSU, MBA from Pacific Lutheran University, and a MA in Organizational Leadership and Change from Fielding Graduate University. And as a Fielding doctoral candidate pursuing a Ph.D. in Organizational Development and Change, she exemplifies a life-long commitment to education. 

In her self-care moments, Melannie enjoys being with her family, playing golf, and gardening.