Rinker Grad Winburn Begins New Journey on International Women’s Day

Friday, March 8, 2024
By: Kyle Niblett

In the heart of Appalachia, where rugged landscapes meet resilient communities, a beacon of hope shines bright through the Appalachia Service Project (ASP). At the helm of this transformative organization stands Melisa Winburn, a woman whose journey from the halls of the University of Florida’s M.E. Rinker, Sr. School of Construction Management to the presidency and CEO position of ASP is nothing short of inspiring.

Formally known as Melisa Miller, she is poised to take on her new role starting March 8, 2024. With a career trajectory deeply rooted in service and community development, Winburn’s story is a testament to the power of passion, education, and unwavering dedication.

Her journey out of college began in 2005 when she took on the role of executive director of Rebuild Gainesville, an organization she helped found during her time at the UF College of Design, Construction and Planning. Later, she aligned with the national brand Rebuilding Together, honing her skills in community development and construction management. However, Winburn’s thirst for service led her beyond borders as she ventured to Eleuthera, Bahamas, to serve as the development director for Bahamas Methodist Habitat.

In 2013, Winburn found her home at the Appalachia Service Project, initially serving as the chief ministries officer before ascending to the role of executive vice president and chief operating officer. Now, as she prepares to step into her new role as president and CEO, Winburn reflects on her journey with gratitude and a sense of purpose.

“My education at Rinker equipped me with the skills needed to run a professional and industry-compliant non-profit,” Winburn shared. “I always knew that I wanted to utilize my education in construction management to fulfill the basic housing needs of those around me. Rinker gave me the skills needed to ensure those needs are filled with the highest standards possible.”

Throughout her career, Winburn’s dedication to service and community empowerment has remained steadfast. Under her leadership, ASP has flourished, providing critical home repairs and constructing new homes for families in need across five states in Appalachia. Last year alone, ASP constructed 49 new homes and provided essential repairs to nearly 300 others, making a tangible difference in the lives of countless individuals and families.

As Winburn steps into her new role, her day-to-day responsibilities will center around the leadership and sustainability of ASP.

“As CEO, my main responsibilities are for the leadership of and sustainability of the organization as a whole,” she explained. “It is my job to ensure that ASP is carrying out its vision and mission.”

Reflecting on her time at Rinker, Winburn fondly remembers the rigorous and rich studies that prepared her for a career in construction management.

“Rinker has become part of my family,” she said.

Despite the challenges she faced as a student, including balancing coursework with outside responsibilities, Winburn cherishes the memories of community engagement and hands-on learning that defined her time at Rinker.

“I loved when Doc Weatherington would get us involved in the community,” she recalled. “I enjoyed the teambuilding and the tangible difference we were able to make in just one weekend on a home.”

As a proud alumna, Winburn celebrates the increasing representation of women at Rinker, noting the progress made since her time as a student.

“I have always appreciated that Rinker bucks industry norms by recruiting and facilitating qualified women into the construction industry,” she said. “I would love to see that number grow and for the industry as a whole to continue to realize the strength in empowering women to be leaders in the field.”

For Winburn, Women in Construction Week holds significant meaning, serving as a reminder of the contributions and potential of women in the building trades. “Women in Construction Week gives a spotlight to some amazing women in the building trades while also highlighting the need for growth in female representation in this industry,” she explains. “This week gives us all a chance to consider women as significant assets in the sector.”

Drawing parallels between Rinker School and the Appalachia Service Project, Winburn emphasizes the shared commitment to community and tangible impact. “My experience with many BCN students and faculty is that they care about their community and have hearts willing to ‘give back’ when called upon,” she observed. “ASP also attracts those kinds of people. I have seen the best in humanity out on a home rehabilitation project full of volunteers.”

As Winburn prepares to embark on her new role at ASP, her journey serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration. With a foundation built on education, service, and unwavering dedication, Winburn’s leadership promises to continue transforming communities and changing lives across Appalachia.

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