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Melissa Wood Bartholomew, JD, MDiv, MSW

preferred pronouns: she, her, hers

Melissa is a racial justice and healing practitioner.
She is a lawyer, a mediator, a minister, and a social worker.

Melissa is a descendant of Africans who were enslaved in this country. Her commitment to social justice led her to attend Howard University School of Law (’97). After practicing public interest law for nearly 10 years in Seattle, WA, she began to realize the limitations of the law. Melissa discerned that the kind of heart changes that are required for social transformation cannot be achieved through legal remedies alone. In 2008, she accepted her formal call to the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ and transitioned into the field of mediation. While working as a mediator, she pursued her theological education at Bakke Graduate School in Seattle. Through that program, Melissa studied spiritually transformative leadership in Ghana, and forgiveness, restorative justice, and reconciliation in Rwanda.

In 2012, committed to expanding her capacity to transform hearts and minds at the intersection of spirituality and social change, Melissa moved to Cambridge, MA with her family to attend Harvard Divinity School. Melissa was a Presidential Scholar at Harvard and went to HDS with the vision of creating a multi-faith paradigm for racial reconciliation and healing that would engage people of all faiths and backgrounds, including people who do not claim a particular faith. While at HDS, she co-founded the Racial Justice & Healing Initiative student group. Her vision expanded to encompass the work of racial justice and healing which includes healing the emotional and psychological effects of racism. After graduating from Harvard in 2015 with a Master of Divinity, Melissa immediately began pursuing a combined MSW/PhD in Social Work at Boston College and completed her MSW in May 2017. In 2018, Melissa co-founded the Racial Justice Symposium at Boston College School of Social Work. The symposium, Racial Trauma & Healing in Social Work: Research, Policy, & Practice, brought social work researchers and practitioners from throughout Boston and the surrounding area together to address the roots of racism and practical strategies for healing. Melissa is approaching the end of her PhD program and is working on her dissertation. Her research interests include the impact of racism and historical racial trauma, incarceration, and other systems of oppression on the mental health of African Africans, and the role of spirituality in their healing and resilience. 

Melissa's multidisciplinary approach to healing justice is rooted in the African philosophy of Ubuntu, restorative justice, and the ethic of love. Her commitment to eradicating racism through multidisciplinary strategies emerges from her experiences as a public interest attorney, a mediator, a minister, and social worker. She is a facilitator and mentor with the Transformational Prison Project, and serves as a per diem chaplain at Boston Medical Center. She is currently serving as the Racial Justice Fellow at Harvard Divinity School and as an Instructor in Ministry at HDS. Melissa is also an adjunct professor at Boston College Law School where she co-facilitates Restorative Justice: Transforming the Law from Within, a course that she co-designed. In the fall of 2019, she will begin teaching Diversity & Cross-Cultural Issues at Boston College School of Social Work.

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