Most people dread the required public speaking college course. But for Lubin BBA/MBA in public accounting student Elissa Casa ’14, the class she took her freshman year on the Westchester Campus was the introduction to her mentor, Dyson Professor Ellen Mandel, PhD, and the empowering world of community service.
Mandel, who helped start a breast cancer awareness day in Rockland County and worked with the Rockland County legislative breast cancer task force to bring mobile mammogram services to the Hasidic community, has been involved with Komen for more than 20 years, and was on the board of directors for the NYC chapter of Komen. In 1992, she brought Komen and Pace together for the annual Race for the Cure and has been inspiring the next generation of Ellen Mandels around campus.
Using her public speaking class as one of her many marketing tactics, Mandel has been able to recruit starting right in her classroom.
“Because one in eight women will unfortunately get breast cancer, there is hardly a person who I ask in my class who doesn’t know someone who’s suffered from this, either lost a battle or has been lucky enough to survive,” Mandel says. “Elissa said she’d like to help so I made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.”
For Casa, it wasn’t a personal experience with breast cancer that inspired her to join, but it was the sense of community, teamwork, and mentoring that has kept her involved for the last four years. What started out as creating fliers and sending out recruitment e-mails has expanded into coordinating all of the day-of-event details, getting the 100+ team members together, and acting as co-captain with Mandel.
“It’s people like Elissa, who are the extraordinary,” says Mandel. “She’s an unsung hero.”
And the gushing goes both ways.
“Dr. Mandel is such an incredible person, professor, mentor, and friend,” says Casa. “She’s one of a kind.”
Something she wasn’t necessarily expecting to gain from the race and work with Mandel, Casa says, was a level of confidence, work ethic, and networking skills, which helped her land her dream internship with KPMG. And she even tapped into her experience with Komen, coordinating fundraisers for local libraries with fellow interns. “Employers want to see you engaging,” she adds.
Casa was offered a full-time position with KPMG beginning in October 2014.
“Pace in general has really fostered a lot of work ethic and career opportunities for me that I don’t know if I would have had at other schools. I’m finally starting to see my high school dreams come true. I owe a lot to Dr. Mandel,” she says.
“She’s no longer my student, but she’ll always be my friend. I expect great things from her,” Mandel says.
This September, their race success continued, as Pace brought together both campuses, including Greek organizations, sports teams, and executive administration, and won the award for largest university team, an honor they’ve achieved every year but one.
“If you’re looking for something that is a true joint effort, this is it. It shows that Pace is not only an academic institution, but it has a big heart collectively and gives back to the community,” says Mandel, who was also awarded NYC Race for the Cure’s Volunteer of the Year.
“For me, it’s a motivator to continue, continue, continue. I’ve had students come up to me and thank me because their mothers or grandmothers are survivors and this gave them feelings of empowerment other than just sitting there and holding their hands. That’s a gift,” she says. “The award is wonderful because everyone loves recognition, but what it means is that we’re moving and doing and hopefully, within the not-too-distant future, we can talk about not having a race at all and finding a cure.”
For Casa, it was emotional to see her mentor recognized. “To see her get up there and hear people say such wonderful things about her, I was so proud for her and it made me feel really happy that I’m able to help her like I can,” she says. “It felt as if something really great happened to someone in my family.”
Casa, who will graduate in 2014, is looking to help find her protégé, but that doesn’t mean she’ll be abandoning the Pace team.
“As a Pace alumna, I will stay loyal to the Pace team,” she says. And as for Dr. Mandel, “I’m stuck with her for life,” she laughs.