Melondy Doddy-Muñoz always loved learning. As a child, she read everything she could get her hands on, from encyclopedias to books about ancient Egypt.
Her parents wanted her to go to college, but she said the path to become a first-generation college student was uncertain.
“I’m like ‘OK, what do I do?’ And they’re like, ‘oh, you got to go figure that piece out,’’ Doddy-Muñoz said. “‘We don’t quite know. But we know that you need a college degree to have a better chance at life.’”
Now 32, and working as senior director of strategy and growth at Tarrant to and Through Partnership, known as T3 – an organization that helps students get accepted into college after high school and complete their degrees — she sees herself in the students she aims to help.
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“They’re not numbers on papers. They’re me. They’re my sister, they’re my friends,” she said.
Before her work at T3, she was executive director of the Ladder Alliance, a nonprofit that helps women who have faced domestic abuse, and worked in higher education at Texas Wesleyan University and Texas Christian University. She is working toward a doctorate in higher education leadership at TCU.
At T3, she analyzes data, onboards new schools to the program and makes sure the organization is serving the people it intends to, she said. She does that by considering culture, gender, race and other factors to create context when looking at the numbers.
“People say their kids fall between the cracks, fall between the cracks, fall between the cracks,” Doddy-Muñoz said. “My job is to be a flashlight to illuminate the cracks.”
‘Just get your education and try to be a good person’
Doddy-Muñoz said she gets her love of learning from her grandfather, who she calls one of the most brilliant men she knows. Growing up in Fort Worth, she recalls him telling her if she doesn’t know the answer to something, to either look it up or ask someone, then fact check.
Her grandparents’ game room was full of books, and she read everything from her grandfather’s magazines to the encyclopedia Britannica volumes resting on the pool table.
“They had a whole encyclopedia set from A to Z and I’m sure by the time I was about 12 or 13, I’d finished it,” she said.
Ronald Coble, Doddy-Muñoz’s grandfather, said when the first Harry Potter book came out, she read it in two days. She was anxious to learn, he said. He describes his granddaughter as a kind and ambitious person who wants to help others. Kindness is something he emphasized when she was growing up.
“I was telling Mel … just get your education and try to be a good person,” Coble said.
Doddy-Muñoz said she comes from a family of hard workers; Her mother grew up poor on a farm in East Texas, and her grandfather didn’t finish high school and worked his way up to become a supervisor at a welding plant. He bought his first house at 19-years-old.
The family encouraged reading and education growing up.
‘She’s bold … and she’s taking everybody with her’
It wasn’t all about books, homework and grades, though. Doddy-Muñoz played basketball, softball and received a cheerleading scholarship to Texas Wesleyan University.
Doddy-Muñoz decided to study comparative religious studies after taking a class called “Ways of Being Religious,” and learning about religious and philosophical thinkers such as Karl Marx and Jiddu Krishnamurti.
She said the degree helped her connect to people through understanding religion.
“If we can attach ourselves to what makes us connected and what makes us alike, then we can work through those differences a lot easier,” she said.
Stacy Burrell, director of grants compliance and monitoring at Fort Worth ISD, has acted as a mentor to Doddy-Muñoz throughout her career. Doddy-Muñoz is an out-of-the-box thinker and disruptor, Burrell said.
“She also looks at the current systems and says, ‘Hey, are we really optimizing what needs to be done?’” Burrell said. “She really works internally to help her colleagues, stakeholders, investors, or the like, really see the potential beyond probably what is already there.”
When Doddy-Muñoz was working at TCU’s college advising corps, she encouraged staff to see their roles not only as peer mentors but as their life work, Burrell said. She describes Doddy-Muñnoz as a very personable person who is bold in purpose.
“In that boldness, she’s very approachable,” Burrell said. “She’s not a bold leader where she leaves people behind. She’s bold … and she’s taking everybody with her.”
Doddy-Muñoz said her ADHD is her superpower. The time to stop and process allows her to connect ideas and see what others don’t.
Part of being a leader is being authentic and giving people the space to be themselves and have space to work.
“How can you innovate if your schedule is full from 9 to 5?” Doddy-Muñoz said. “Like, when do you have time to dream, when do you have time to imagine?”
Outside of work, Doddy-Muñoz said one of her dreams is to visit all of the world’s continents and the Seven Wonders of the World. She’s already seen two — the Taj Mahal in India and Chichén Itzá in Mexico.
Her dream for Fort Worth is that it becomes a more equitable place. She has a different perspective of “The Fort Worth Way” and the history of the city from her grandfather, who grew up in segregated Fort Worth during the Jim Crow era. She says she still sees the legacy of Jim Crow and racism in the city in the data that she analyzes.
“My hope, one day, would be … that Fort Worth would be an inclusive place,” Doddy-Muñoz said, “and an equitable place where my daughter would only have to learn about inequities from history and not see it or feel it as a lived experience.”
Melondy Doddy-Muñoz bio:
Birthplace: Fort Worth
Family: Husband, Rolando Muñoz; 4-year old daughter Kalyani Doddy-Munoz; 4-month old daughter Theodora Doddy-Munoz.
Education: Bachelor’s, comparative religion, Texas Wesleyan University; Master of Education, Angelo State University; Ph.D. higher education, Texas Christian University (May 2023 graduation)
Work experience: Senior director of strategy and growth at T3; Executive director, Ladder Alliance; Adjunct professor – Texas Christian University Neeley School of Business; Interim director of TCU’s College Advising Corps; assistant director of TCU’s College Advising Corps; Adjunct professor of interdisciplinary studies at TCU; Program coordinator at University of Texas- Arlington; Admissions counselor at Texas Wesleyan University; Assistant buyer – mobility and wireless compliance specialist at RadioShack
Volunteering: Volunteer at Cristo Rey Fort Worth High School and Cuidado Casero Foundation
First job: Worked at boutique clothing shop in the Hulen Mall
Best advice received: Don’t take things personally. I think especially in such a social media driven world. Professionally as leaders, you have to be able to separate your work product from yourself.
Advice for someone learning to be a leader: Be somebody worth following. Being the leader is not being the loudest person in a room. It’s not being the strongest person in the room or even being the smartest person in the room. It’s the person that people have faith in, that person that has a vision, that person that has integrity that people are willing to follow if they’re trusted.
Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120.
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