Skip to content

One of Rutgers' first female students is honored during National Business Women's Week

Melanie Willoughby was the first female president of the Rutgers student government. 
Photo by Photo by | The Daily TargumMelanie Willoughby was the first female president of the Rutgers student government. 

This week, during National Business Women’s Week, Melanie Willoughby, admitted to Rutgers College in 1972, has gained attention as one of the first female students at Rutgers.

Willoughby became the first female president of the Rutgers student body, as well as the first female member and current president of the Rutgers University Alumni Association, according to a press release.

She currently directs the New Jersey Business Action Center (NJBAC), which is an agency within the New Jersey Department of State, according to the release. 

The center is involved with things such as helping business owners arrange meetings with regulatory agencies, identifying available grants and helping with permits and approvals, according to the release. 

“Our sole purpose is to help businesses navigate the regulatory system and solve problems, because government can be very complex,” Willoughby said.

Willoughby has also had an ongoing relationship with Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute of Politics, where she helps mentor students and has been a member on the board of the University’s Institute for Women’s Leadership, the release stated. 

Compared to the current Rutgers atmosphere, Willoughby said that during her time, she encountered a culture that believed women did not belong in college, according to the release. 

She believes that, looking back, these confrontations were a part of what shaped her into the successful advocate and negotiator she is today, according to the release. 

“Being at Rutgers was an opportunity for me to toughen up, to build acceptance and respect among the professors and administrators and show other students what I was capable of,” she said. “The professors had fears of our dumbing down Rutgers. Instead, we were very rigorous and academically gifted.”