Alumni Changemaker: Melisa Lopez Franzen

Alumni Changemaker: Melisa Lopez Franzen

Serving community through advocacy and political leadership

To honor our 40 years, we're celebrating our most valuable resource - our alumni - through 40 profiles highlighting their leadership. Our next Changemaker is Alum Melisa Lopez Franzen! She completed the fellowship at the University of Michigan in 2000.


Melisa Lopez Franzen embodies the values of empowerment, compassion and service.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Melisa received her BA in Political Science from Inter-American University of Puerto Rico and her MPP from Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at University of Minnesota. She went on to receive her JD from Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

As the student body president and a tutor in the Upward Bound Trio Program during her undergraduate studies, Melisa gravitated not only toward leadership roles but towards service. It was a research assistantship at Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Social Justice that brought her to Minnesota at 21 years of age to further her education.

Upon completing her education, she spent 8 years as an attorney for Target working in a number of roles. Utilizing her natural tendencies to foster relationships and community as well as her educational background and skill set, she went from Real Estate Analyst to Sr. Policy Advocate, to managing Governmental Affairs to consulting on Employee and Community Relations.

She went on to make history as both the first woman and first Puerto Rican to represent Senate District 49 in Minnesota in 2012 and was then reelected in 2016. Throughout her tenure, she has supported legislation in early childhood education, infrastructure, transportation and healthcare. She also became a voice for reform and legislation of recreational cannabis. As a mother herself, the well being of families remained at the core of her advocacy.

“As a Senator, when you’re able to help a constituent navigate a precarious situation – when it comes to their housing or their healthcare, something that impacts their lives and their families – that’s always incredibly rewarding.”

Being a strategic communicator, she went on to co-found NewPublica, a public relations company providing a better understanding of diverse communities both locally and nationally. As President she brings her dynamic innovation, depth of cross-cultural experience and focus on multicultural identity to the entire team.

Her current role in the Minnesota State Senate is that of DFL Caucus Assistant Minority Leader. Elected to this 3 person team for her extraordinary public leadership, she will be contributing to the collective work and success of the Minnesota Senate.

Leadership is a natural expression for Melisa. She is part of HOPE Binational Fellowship Program which is a leadership program for Latino professionals. She was selected for the Minnesota Young American Leaders Program where she will work cross culturally to find ways to benefit the public good. She also was the President of the Minnesota Hispanic Bar Association and the Regional Vice-President of the Hispanic National Bar Association. 

She has been recognized as an exceptional attorney and honored with the 2020 HNBA Top Lawyers under 40 award and also was recognized in the “40 under 40” by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.

Melisa Lopez Franzen is leading her state and beyond in cultivating equity and opportunity for all. Prioritizing health and empowerment, she leads with commitment and service that impacts change.


Thank you Melisa for influencing state, regional and national systems in a way that enhances diversity and unites communities. Your political voice carries both wisdom and integrity that is respected by both colleagues and constituents. You embody the heartfelt leadership and innovative spirit that builds bridges



Read more Changemaker profiles here!