Associate Director, Advancement at The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research
By Ilana Gensler, MA’19
While taking a Soul Cycle class in London, Mary McQuillen, DMSB’14 spotted a Northeastern zip-up among the sea of fellow cyclers. Little did she know that this sweatshirt served as an icebreaker for Mary to meet senior vice president for University Advancement, Diane MacGillivray and, ultimately, a catalyst to her role in supporting university programming through Alumni Relations. Mary raised her hand as a volunteer for the New York City community, where she continues to bridge conversations among new connections.
How did Northeastern impact you professionally?
My Northeastern education has been fundamental in shaping my career and the profession that I ended up choosing. The program can be utilized to understand what you don’t want to do, trying my hand at different careers from a large sales organization to executive recruiting to a small media firm. Without Northeastern, I might have made it to front-line fundraising in the healthcare space, but it would have taken me a lot longer to find something that I love to do.
In an evolving professional world, how do you stay ahead and continue to grow your knowledge and expertise?
I’m involved with an organization called Women in Development New York, which provides different networking and professional opportunities to hone our craft and learn from one another. If anything what my time at Northeastern has taught me is that you can gain so many connections and learn so much just from a small group of people. Always keep those lines of communication open and say ‘yes’ to different kinds of opportunities.
Can you think back to how you felt during your first event? And, how has your experience evolved?
It felt pretty natural and a ton of fun – no matter where you are in the world when you meet a fellow alumni, naturally, you have so much common ground. I work in fundraising so I’m always forming connections with people that I don’t know. You can get to know the community better, recognizing folks you might have seen at a past event before, and I corral my friends from Northeastern that live and work in the New York City area.
How my involvement all began in London was just a perfect storm of happenstance. It’s fun to quickly connect with the Northeastern community when I really hadn’t been involved for several years. When chatting with a co-op student at the non-profit social hour we connected over both belonging to the same sorority!
June 29, 2020
What is one piece of advice for someone looking to get involved as a volunteer?
Rip the Band-Aid and give it a try! It can feel like your first day freshman year figuring out who you’re going to talk to at the dining hall, but the people who raise their hand want to form those relationships and networks. There’s a lot to be gained from the amount of time folks in our community are willing to lend a hand.
What’s next for you?
More than ever before, now is a time that we’re all appreciative of the communities that we have in our lives, whether that be friends, family or alumni. I’m going to keep trying to be that connector for the New York City community as much as I can because I’ve gotten so much out of my participation with this group, and am excited to see what the year has to come.