Melanie Benit ’15: From Louisiana to Italy to Israel to DC

Written byElizabeth Rose-Arcuri

“Instead of litigating in the court room, I’m on the ground in various states working in the court of public opinion.”

Melanie Benit graduated from UL Lafayette in political science and studied counterterrorism in graduate school
Melanie Benit
Graduation Year
Class of 2015
Political Science & Marketing
Meraux, La.

Where I'm From

I’m from Meraux, where I had plans to attend college out of state.

Where I Am

I graduated from UL Lafayette and attended graduate school in Israel.

Where I'm Going

I work for a national nonprofit law firm where I defend the rights of people from government abuse of power.  

Melanie Benit is using her political science degree as an activism associate at the DC-area Institute for Justice, where she works in capitals and in the streets to advance laws that improve the lives of people of modest means.

When Melanie declared political science as her major, she didn’t expect to work in public policy.

“Like many, I wanted to go to law school, so I started as a political science major with a pre-law concentration. I took at least 18 hours every semester and was on track to complete my degree in two years, but I wasn’t yet ready to give up my time at UL Lafayette,” she said. “I decided to double major in marketing and to study abroad in Italy.”

“Studying abroad changed the course of my life because I realized I didn’t want my career to be in a court room; I wanted to be in the thick of things, making real-time policy changes.”

When she came back to campus after her summer abroad, she confided in her professors, who encouraged her to attend graduate school instead of law school.

Studying & Working in Public Policy

“Fast forward, and I decided to move across the world to Israel to study homeland security and counterterrorism,” she said.

She attended the Raphael Recanati International School at the Interdisciplinary Center of Herzliya. She earned her Master of Arts in Government, Counter-Terrorism, and Homeland Security with a specialization in cybersecurity.

Her research focused on how poor governance contributes to the struggle against terrorism. After graduating, she moved to the Washington, DC, area to begin her career promoting policies that uphold free societies and promote limited government, with a special focus on addressing the many underlying issues of terrorism.

“Now, I find myself working for a national nonprofit law firm near DC,” she said. “While our attorneys litigate in the court room, I’m on the ground in various states working in the court of public opinion. I host townhalls, lead rallies, and lobby legislators in support of the Institute for Justice’s various constitutional issues.”

Getting Her Start at UL Lafayette

Melanie credits her experiences at UL Lafayette for helping her start her career. She was originally drawn to UL Lafayette because it was affordable, but stayed because of the opportunities she had here.

“What makes a college experience worthwhile is how much you’ve been challenged to think and to grow,” she said. “Students at UL Lafayette have so much opportunity to explore new ideas and places, and they need only get out of their comfort zone and try.”

When the opportunity came up for Melanie to get out of her comfort zone, she rarely said no. She was involved in the Student Government Association, Delta Delta Delta sorority, Student Leadership Council, College Republicans, Honors Program, Model Organization of American States, Political Science Club, and multiple honor societies.

“UL Lafayette is the greatest institution of higher learning in Louisiana, and one of the greatest in the nation,” Melanie said. “From the beautiful campus of red brick and our own personal swamp, to the professors who know you by name and wish you all the success in the world — it is a remarkable place to be.

“Lafayette is great city to ‘come of age’ in: it has culture, good food, lots of things to do, yet still has a feel of home," she said. "I loved every moment of my time at UL Lafayette.”

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