Senior social work major Meghan Lippa with NU alumnus Fred Wasiak, president and CEO of the Food Bank of South Jersey.

When Meghan Lippa, a senior social work major from Norwich, N.Y., began her internship in the health and wellness department at the Food Bank of South Jersey, she knew it would be an opportunity to learn how public health and nutrition education can engage a community and lead to improved long-term health outcomes. What she didn’t know was that she would also learn more about the power of the Niagara University alumni network.

Just a few days after she started at the food bank, where she led hands-on cooking demonstrations and classroom instruction to increase nutrition awareness, Fred Wasiak, president, CEO, and Niagara alumnus from the Class of 1983, reached out to her. 

Throughout the eight-week summer program, Wasiak would connect with Lippa to have informal conversations about her experiences, challenges, and opportunities for growth. After Lippa attended a staff meeting where she observed Wasiak’s leadership style, she was “so impressed and inspired by him” that she requested a formal meeting “to learn more about how he does what he does, why he does it, and how he learned how to do it so I can use those strategies and tactics for myself.”

Wasiak was happy to take time to meet with Lippa one-on-one. During their conversation, he shared the progression of his career and how he developed his leadership skills. He even gave her his dog-eared, highlighted copy of the book “Resonant Leadership.”

“It was really a great conversation,” Lippa said. “It changed my perspective of how I would like to lead on campus. We talked about the difference between management and leadership, and I have used some of the advice he has given me.”

Knowing that Lippa is interested in pursuing a career in social work and public health, Wasiak also introduced her to a food pantry board member who offered Lippa career and professional development advice over coffee.

When Lippa returned to Niagara University this fall, she began a field placement at the Alzheimer’s Association, where she advocates for the organization as a State Champion for Assemblyman Angelo Morinello. She says her experience at the food bank gave her the skills she needs to be successful in that role.

“I was quite confident when I walked into the agency on the first day,” she said.

Both Lippa and Wasiak anticipate continuing their professional relationship over the coming years, as she pursues graduate studies and her career. For Lippa, the connection will provide a network she can reach out to when she needs assistance with professional development or in her job search. For Wasiak, it is an opportunity to continue the Niagara spirit.

“To know you have connections brings a sense of security, confidence, and hope for the next phase of the journey,” he said.

Lippa agrees. “It really builds confidence and a sense of power that you have all these people that you can call on at any time. I believe it is an integral part of the Niagara experience and an incredible resource.”

Alumni engagement is critical to the success of our students. If you are interested in assisting current students, join our Alumni Career Network by signing up at, or contact Career Services directly at 716.286.8500 or

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