Alumni Profile: Mandy Kessler '08
Kyla Pigoni (a class of 2013 journalism major from Geyserville, California) caught up with Park Scholar alumna Mandy Kessler, a Business Partnerships Manager at the New York Food Bank in New York City.
When Mandy Kessler applied to Ithaca College in late 2003, she confidently checked her desired major as journalism. She loved writing and using her skills to further causes that were important to her, but other aspects of that chosen career were still a mystery.
After one semester learning about the different aspects of journalism, she realized it wasn’t for her. Instead, she chose Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC), which offered an outlet where she could begin to explore her growing passion for social change.
“I realized that I wanted to use my skills with IMC to further the need for social good,” she said. “I kind of went down that path without realizing it.”
Kessler was involved with multiple nonprofits and social change clubs on and off campus—such as STAND and the SPCA—but she didn’t know how to combine those interests with her new major.
The first step towards linking the two occurred during her summer internship at home in Boston during the summer between her junior and senior year. Kessler interned at CONE, working directly under Carole Cone, who is considered to be the mother of cause marketing.
“I was lucky enough to help her with research on a book, which was just an amazing educational opportunity,” she said. “I became passionate about finding a way to have companies do social good and help causes and nonprofits. There’s a huge theory behind it, and I was able to learn from the woman who literally wrote the book.”
Kessler now works as the Business Partnerships Manager at the New York Food Bank in New York City where she is able to combine her skills with IMC with her desire to create social good.
“I basically work as a liaison between all of the local food banks and different corporate supporters,” she said. “I’m tasked with fundraising and finding creative ways to engage the corporations in the food bank’s mission.”
Kessler said the biggest issue she encounters at work is the lack of resources. Going from a consultancy where everything is at your disposal to a nonprofit where they aren’t, it creates challenges. While some days are spent trying to keep her head above water, she still finds the process rewarding.
“I like finding the connection and solving that problem,” she said. “I help the food bank meet its needs, whether pro bono space for training or a need for a host for food drives. I like the creative process of making the food bank more efficient and effective while helping companies work with us, despite their lack of a budget for social good.”
Looking back on how she got to her current position, Kessler said she attributes the Park Scholar Program as being a key element of why she wanted to enter this new field of communication.
“On a basic level, being a Park Scholar was about being a communication student and a person engaged in community service,” she said. “Without meaning to, it crept into my psyche. I didn’t start with IMC with the purpose of cause marketing. The daily reminder of values and importance, surrounded by a community with those values, really pushed me in that direction.”
For other students interested in cause marketing, Kessler recommends jumping in and taking advantage of every opportunity available.
“I didn’t do anything by the book, I took a jagged path to where I ended up,” she said. “But the more you do, the more opportunities you’ll have. There is no such thing as a bad experience. You just need to always work towards that next best step.”