Student Spotlight: Mariana Melzer ’26

Mariana Melzer was drawn to Brown’s Open Curriculum and the International and Public Affairs concentration because they would allow her to pursue a diverse set of interests related to economics and development.


New York City (Born in Curitiba, Brazil) 


International and Public Affairs, Economics

When researching schools, Mariana Melzer was intrigued by Brown's Open Curriculum because of the flexibility it affords and the ease with which it allows students to make connections between multiple topics within a rigorous academic framework. 

"The Open Curriculum allows me to explore a variety of interests, including math, philosophy and languages, and to cultivate a very intellectually fulfilling experience," said Melzer, who is a double concentrator in economics and international and public affairs (IAPA). "With its diverse array of electives, IAPA allows me to curate a personalized academic journey and craft a narrative that reflects my interests in the field while discovering new areas of study," she said.

While drawn to Brown for its well-known reputation as a welcoming and collaborative community, she was initially skeptical that Brown would truly live up to that reputation. "Ultimately, the environment is truly everything they say it is — it's incredibly collaborative," said Melzer. "I'm learning from my peers and faculty and everyone involved at Brown. It's a welcoming space where everyone motivates and supports each other."

Choosing a double concentration was a straightforward decision for Melzer. "I'm especially interested in how economic policy shapes our society — not merely the theories, but also the practicalities of policy implementation," said Melzer. "Economics provides a foundational understanding of markets, while IAPA offers insight into governance and public administration. Combining economics and IAPA is my ticket to contributing energetically to the creation of informed and equitable economic policies that address the complexities of our interconnected world."

During her internship as a program assistant with the American Academy of Diplomacy, Melzer interacted with senior foreign officials and learned about nonprofit management. She is now in the last stages of editing her internship project article, which addresses how USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives acts as a form of soft power in conflict-laden areas. 

Melzer said her broad-based extracurricular leadership positions have also positively shaped her collegiate experience. As co-head delegate captain of the Brown Model United Nations Travel Team (MUN), Melzer reported, "The Model UN [experiences] have been so enriching overall — it's been quite meaningful to meet so many new people and observe their diverse backgrounds and perspectives from within our own team and from competitors' teams." As vice chair of the Watson Institute Student Advisory Council, Melzer said she is excited for the opportunity to further engage in meaningful dialogue, advocate for student needs, and improve the environment for the student community.

Melzer's first IAPA class was a first-year seminar, Art of International Relations, taught by Damien Mahiet, a lecturer in humanities. "We explored soft power and how it eliminates subtleties of diplomatic targets and emphasizes how nations can influence others through attraction and persuasion, rather than through coercion or other forms of military power," she said. Melzer noted that when she reads news accounts of international affairs, she is now able to spot the use of soft power, which she wrote about for her American Academy of Diplomacy internship's final project.

"I recommend that every student at Brown participate in a Watson study group — you can learn so much from them," said Melzer. She enjoyed delving into topics like emerging technologies and the intersection of technology and political legislation in the study group, National Security Innovation and Congress, led by Senior Fellow in International and Public Affairs Arun Seraphin.

“ Brown and Watson have helped shape my values and relationships, and provided me the tools — resiliency, empathy and purpose — to prepare me so well for life. ”

Mariana Melzer IAPA Class of 2026

As a high school student, Melzer was unfamiliar with the entire college application process, as her parents had attended college not in the United States, but in Brazil, where Melzer lived until she was five years old. She now serves as a mentor with Y Tu También, a mentorship college access program, primarily for minority and first-generation students in New York City. "It was very helpful in walking me through the entire college application process during my senior year in high school. I don't think I would be at Brown without having had that support," said Melzer, who is now paying that help forward. "I hope to play a part in ensuring that every student can receive the support they need to navigate the college application process."  

Melzer plans to attend graduate school to study developmental economics and is interested in working on economic policies, either with the government or a think tank. "I'm confident that the solid foundation and interdisciplinary approach at Brown and Watson will prepare me well for challenges and opportunities," said Melzer. "My commitment to social responsibility shaped my trajectory toward an impactful career in the public sector."

Crediting the University's culture with helping to shape her career goals, Melzer added, "Brown and Watson have helped shape my values and relationships, and provided me the tools — resiliency, empathy and purpose — to prepare me so well for life."