Ellen McNeill performed “Jingle Bells” with Brandon Pascua, CAMD'17, for the 2016 D'Amore-McKim holiday video (watch below). McNeill shares her insights as a business major, how she grew her sense of independence through co-op, and why the opportunity to travel helped her choose Northeastern.

Q:What are you studying?

I'm in the midst of my fourth year of five at NU, majoring in Business with a concentration in Entrepreneurship and minoring in Social Entrepreneurship and International Affairs.

Q:With two co-ops completed, what have you learned about yourself personally and professionally?

I sometimes think back to two years ago when I was preparing to move across the country to San Francisco for six months at age 19 with zero authentic office work experience under my belt. Co-ops not only help develop professional skills, but they can have an enormous impact on the personal self too, particularly if the co-op requires moving to a new place. My sense of independence, communication skills, confidence, and general sense of self have grown much stronger and more defined as a result of these new experiences forcing me from my comfort zone. I now feel like a radically different person, and stepping onto the plane that would whisk me away to figure out my own life for six months seems long, long ago.

Q:What are you looking for in your third co-op? Any specific skills or experience you're hoping to gain?

I'm exploring the possibility of co-oping in a nonprofit or social enterprise for my third co-op to gain industry experience for my future. I'd like to be exposed to a variety of roles and responsibilities, improve my interpersonal and communication skills, and have the ability to exercise my creativity. I've worked at a company where everyone is incredibly passionate about their job, and in a company department that creates an incredible social impact on a global scale, but I've never been immersed in a company where people are so passionate about a cause that they devote their immediate life to it. I'd love to experience working in that sort of environment. I'm really interested in working with the International Refugee Crisis and am planning to create my own co-op next fall with an organization that's involved with the situation like the IRC, Red Cross, or the IKEA Foundation. (So if you know anyone, let me know) 😉

Q:As a member of one of the campus' a cappella groups, “Pitch, Please!,” how has joining a club impacted your experience at Northeastern?

Joining any club makes Northeastern's large campus seem much smaller, especially an intensive group that meets at least four hours a week. Being a member of “Pitch, Please!” boosted both my vocal and performance confidence, because everything we do together is as a team so the accountability of our actions forced me push myself out of my comfort zone in the best way. As a result of that confidence, I was heard by a colleague at my most recent co-op who offered me a job as a jazz singer on the Boston Harbor Odyssey cruise ship.

Q:Where do you see yourself after graduation?

Question of the century… While I'd love to pursue singing, realistically I think that I'd have a much greater positive impact pursuing the social impact industry. I'm really interested in gaining experience working in a social enterprise or nonprofit, I and would love to travel and work in different locations around the globe after I finish school. Finding a job that lets me do both is my ideal!

Q:Any advice to prospective Huskies considering Northeastern?

Most students come to NU because of the impressive co-op system, and while this was also a defining factor for me during my college process, the opportunities to travel were ultimately the reason I chose Northeastern. I was able to spend my first semester abroad in Thessaloniki, Greece, my first co-op in San Francisco, and live in Cape Town for a month for the Social Enterprise Dialogue. I'm headed to Sydney this upcoming spring to study abroad, and I'm trying to co-op abroad or across the country for my last co-op before graduation! The sky is the limit, and I love it. Don't let your fears or doubts obstruct you from experiencing the world.

For more on Ellen McNeill visit her LinkedIn profile and listen to her music on SoundCloud.

Read our Q&A with Brandon Pascua, DMSB'18, here.