Success & Impact
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Success & Impact
At the Hub of Hope in center city Philadelphia, Marissa Abel ’21, ’23 (MBA) would serve breakfast to individuals experiencing homelessness before returning to campus at Saint Joseph’s University; in the classroom, she would engage in conversations about the parallels between economic principles and the homelessness epidemic she was witnessing firsthand. It was one of many experiences that would lead the recent alumna to a career at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia where she could continue to tackle economic inequality in the region.
Abel’s volunteer work at the Hub of Hope was part of a service learning course, Economics of Poverty and Income, taught by Economics Professor Nancy Fox, PhD, in which students combined service with academic coursework.
“That course was the first time that I really caught a glimpse into truly applying the skills that I was learning in the classroom to the outside world, but also in a way that I was able to give back to my community,” says Abel. “It was the thing that I was the most grateful to have pushed myself to do as an undergrad and if I went to a different university, I definitely wouldn't have been given that opportunity.”
Abel recalls the many individuals she encountered as she served coffee and breakfast at the Hub of Hope: a man who would chat emphatically about the Sixers, a woman who would play her favorite song of the day, a kid on his way to work who needed a quick breakfast.
For Abel, the experience allowed her to see her community for who they are and not what their circumstances are.
“It opened my eyes into wanting to find something that I was passionate about, but also that could impact the lives of others. I found this connection between finance and working with groups who are experiencing income inequality. I wanted to use my finance degree to give back to my community and offer services to those who are currently lacking them.”
I wanted to use my finance degree to give back to my community and offer services to those who are currently lacking them.
Fox, who always tries to connect her teachings to tangible experiences, recognizes the impact of service learning courses.
“There's no way you could teach the economics of poverty without service learning,” says Fox. “Putting a human face on a problem or an issue or a policy — this makes it that much powerful.”
She adds, “Marissa’s end-of-semester reflection was just so profound, and showed so much growth and insightfulness. It’s clear how much personal and professional growth she experienced in that course.”
During her summer after her senior year, Abel interned at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia within the Cash Services Department. Because of the experience of her internship and the encouragement of her professors and mentors, Abel decided to pursue her master’s through the 4+1 program, studying Data Analytics and Leadership.
“When I talked to some professors about the data analytics program at St. Joe's, they really pushed me to take that jump and pursue the certificate,” says Abel. “I think the Federal Reserve enjoyed seeing the growth that I went through because I went back to them and started talking about all the skills I was able to apply in the program. The professors at St. Joe's really drew me into wanting to come back to continue that lifelong learning journey.”
While pursuing her MBA, Abel also worked as a graduate assistant in the Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Center for Business Ethics, where she helped business students incorporate ethics into their undergraduate education.
“It was because of the mentors I had when I was an undergrad that this was something that excited me to be able to give back to undergrads going through that same experience of trying to discover their passions,” says Abel.
Tim Swift, PhD, associate director, Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Center for Business Ethics, was a mentor to Abel, who he says always discerned how to conduct herself in ways that benefited SJU students, the University and society.
“Marissa brought the Arrupe Center into the 21st century,” says Swift. “She founded, from scratch, a mentoring program for SJU Leadership Ethics and Organizational Sustainability (LEO) undergraduate majors to work with a mentor who was a member of the Arrupe Center Advisory Board — benefiting our students and enriching the connections our board members have to the student body.”
In her job at the Philadelphia Fed, Abel hopes to continue to be able to make an impact for her community.
“I want to use finance but not necessarily in a conventional way. That's kind of how this all tied in was the impact that the Fed has specifically for Philly and the focus on economic inequality, giving back to our community and promoting fair and impartial access to credit and inclusive growth,” says Abel. “It’s a way for me to combine that technical business background, but also that passion for Jesuit education.”