Mandee Heller AdlerHow did you first become interested in Penn?
I applied to Penn because I knew an older girl from my high school who attended. Coming from Florida, I did not know much about Penn (or any of the schools in the Ivy League), and I admit that my decision to apply to Penn involved a lot of good luck.

What coursework/extracurriculars were you involved with while here? What are a few special memories or standout experiences that you had?
As a student at Penn, I could not get enough of the many opportunities presented to me. I was a dual degree student (Wharton and the College) and in the Benjamin Franklin Scholars Honors Program. In addition to my coursework, I engaged in work study, supporting research with Professor Diana Day and also with the Center for Greater Philadelphia, which promoted cooperative urban development within West Philadelphia. I was also President (first female) of the Pennsylvania Investment Alliance (PIA), and the first undergraduate member of the Wharton Fellows Fund. Furthermore, I was Treasurer of the Class of 1994, and a member of Sigma Delta Tau sorority and Mortar Board Senior Society.

The activity which likely had the most lasting impact on my life is Club Water Polo, where I was the first and only female on the Men’s Water Polo Team. Growing up in South Florida, I could not imagine life without water sports, and I did not particularly care that I was the only woman in the water. (I admit, it had its perks, too!) In the Gimble Gym pool, I met my husband, Dr. Jason Adler, C ’93, who also played water polo. During my sophomore year, I founded the Women’s Water Polo team―a team that still exists today.

Another important activity in my life was PIA. Before coming to Penn, I am not even sure I knew what a stock was, let alone how to invest in one. Here, I met amazing financial minds, and also developed confidence in my ability to succeed in any field or environment. Becoming President of PIA honed my leadership skills, especially as a woman in a largely male environment.

How did Penn prepare you for where you are today?
Penn taught me many things. On the most basic level, I learned to write and how to study, skills that have served me well throughout my life. More broadly, I gained the confidence I needed to succeed on a global scale. By attending Penn I believed, “If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere!” This confidence has helped me to start three businesses since graduation, including my current company, International College Counselors. I also received the opportunities and background that would allow me to compete on a global level. By attending Penn, I had an unparalleled educational background that was mine to utilize or mine to squander.  

What do you do as a volunteer? Why is giving back to Penn important to you?
I have participated in many different volunteer positions since my graduation from Penn. On a national level, I’ve served as a Class Fund Chair, as a member of the Penn Fund Board, and as a member of the Executive Committee for the anniversary celebration of 125 Years of Women at Penn. During Alumni Weekend, I served on an author’s panel at Penn for a book I wrote, From Public School to the Ivy League: How to Get into a Top School Without Top Dollar Resources. (I’m proud to admit there is a picture of Penn on the book cover!) Locally, I served as President of the Florida Gold Coast Alumni Association (Broward and Palm Beach counties) and currently serve on the Executive Board of the club.

I volunteer because I was blessed to receive a cutting-edge Penn education and would like to ensure a similar opportunity for other students. I understand that the world is moving very quickly and that it costs a lot of money and resources to provide an innovative and relevant education. To me, higher education is one of our country’s last competitive advantages, and by contributing to Penn, I honestly feel I am bettering my country and my world.

How would you encourage your fellow alumni to become involved with the University?
There are so many ways to stay involved with Penn, and the dividends are tangible. On a local level, alumni can get involved with a regional club, for both community involvement and social engagement.  Alumni can also serve as interviewers―supporting the path of future generations of Penn students. Nationally, alumni can get involved their reunion committees and also with fundraising. (Penn is always looking for help with fundraising!) Interested alumni should get in touch with the Penn Office of Alumni Affairs to learn more (or Florida folks can call me).
Anything else you’d like to tell us about your Penn experience?
My Penn education impacted almost every part of my life. I married my Penn boyfriend, fulfill many of my philanthropic goals through the Penn Fund and the local Penn Club, and even run a company that helps students to get into colleges like Penn! Over 10 years ago, when I was considering my next career move, I decided I needed to choose a professional path that felt meaningful and personal. As my Penn education totally changed my life, I decided to found a company called International College Counselors that supports students from all over the world with the college and graduate school admissions process. My company currently works with close to 1,000 students each year from over 13 countries. Of course, every Quaker acceptance makes my heart sing a little louder!