Salve Success: Mary Melo-Severino ’23, ADJ major and theatre minor
Mary Melo-Severino ’23, an administration of justice (ADJ) major with a minor in theatre, has a background as unique as the combination of her fields of study while at Salve Regina. She’s originally an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, and her family has helped inspire her choice to study ADJ.
With a minor in theatre, she has also found a way to blend what she’s learning there into her ADJ major — making for an interesting career path ahead of her.
Family story inspires study in ADJ
Melo-Severino’s grandfather came over to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic years ago, and he then worked to get the paperwork through in order bring Melo-Severino to the country. Her mother and sister came, too.
Before Salve Regina, Melo-Severino’s lived with her family in Central Falls, Rhode Island, and went to high school in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. She is proud of her heritage, but she’s also grateful for the opportunities that living in the U.S. has given her.
“You have a little bit more access to things here than I would have had in the Dominican Republic,” she said. “I definitely don’t think I would have been going to college if I wasn’t here, for sure.”
Melo-Severino explained that as she has gotten older and more in tune with current events and political issues, her interest in law might take her down a path of fighting for social justice and immigration rights. She has loved that one of the critical concerns of Mercy at Salve Regina is immigration.
“I’ve always been interested in law, specifically immigration law,” she described. “I’m just around a lot of immigrants …. I have that personal experience, and I’ve always been interested in doing much more to help the people in my family and the people I have come across with immigration.”
Learning a new side of theatre
Prior to the pandemic, Melo-Severino was an actor in two productions of “Peter and the Star Catcher” and “The Addams Family,” which was put on by StageFright, a student led organization on campus. Salve Regina’s theatre program was going to put on a production of James Lapine’s “Into the Woods,” but it was cancelled due to the social limitations of the pandemic.
Currently, Melo-Severino is taking precautions in her theatre studies in order to stay safe during the pandemic. In order to still stay involved in the program, she’s moved from acting to backstage work.
“The way I have changed my involvement in theatre has made it safer for me,” she explained. “I am usually on stage, and this year I have been doing a lot of backstage work, so I get to see this other new side of theatre and explore that as well. So, it’s been bad in a way, but good in a way because I am exploring a lot of different things.”
Melo-Severino was the director of cinematography with the production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” and she is currently working on the costume designs for the next production of “And Away We Go” by Terrence McNally. By deciding to step back and explore a new side to theatre, she gets to be a part of acting while expanding her knowledge of the craft.
Salve Regina’s future theatre productions are still uncertain due to COVID-19 restrictions, according to Melo-Severino. Hopefully, the Salve Regina community will be able to see the great work of Melo-Severino and Salve Regina’s theatre program in action again soon.
How theatre helps ADJ studies
“Every time I tell someone I am an ADJ major with a minor in theatre, it’s like ‘Oh, you’re what?’ ” Melo-Severino laughed. “Because you wouldn’t put those two things together.”
So when it comes to ADJ and theater, what is the connection? In theatre, actors are taught how to use sense recall to remember past sensations and emotions in order to accurately depict them on stage. They are trained to use their observations to imitate how they have seen people behave, and they blend these two techniques together in order to identify and become their characters.
This skillset requires developing a keen sense of empathy to a variety of characters and their struggles in order to effectively act onstage. These skills are helpful in a career in law, according to Melo-Severino, because empathy is something that is important while working with clients.
“I get a lot of practice putting myself in other people’s shoes, which … will help me in law advocating for certain issues,” she explained.
The ability to know and understand someone else’s life and walk a mile in their shoes will help Melo-Severino advocate for clients in cases based on immigration or social justice. She is already allowing herself to understand what individuals are going through and what they need on a deeper level, and she is excited to continue to develop these skills so that she can advocate effectively through the law.
Melo-Severino’s studies exemplify how diversity in course selection can lead to really interesting approaches to education and enhance a career path later on. After her graduation from Salve Regina, Melo-Severino hopes to go to law school, as well as continue working in theatre. She is not sure where her future will take her with her, but she knows that these two passions will go hand-in-hand.
Article by student writer Anna Downes ’22
Salve Success is a series of student success stories periodically featured on SALVEtoday. Check out the tag Salve Success for more stories.