Emmanuelle Iskandar completed her master’s degree in food engineering in Lebanon on Aug. 4, 2020—the day after the devastating port explosion in Beirut. Between the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis the explosion had caused, it was challenging for freshly graduated students like Iskandar to find a job.
Faced with this uncertainty, Iskander decided to pair her food safety and science knowledge with a newfound interest in graphic design, launching an educational social media account (@kitchilab). This morphed into a Kitchilab startup to teach children fun facts about food science through hands-on experiments.
Even still, Iskander was in search of a steady job. An aunt who lived in Aurora, Ohio, suggested she try to find a job or a graduate program in America that related to her background.
Previously, Iskander worked as a caregiver at a nonprofit and volunteered as an EMT at the Lebanese Red Cross, which led her to an “aha” moment: Pursuing a Master of Nonprofit Organizations (MNO) at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences would be “everything I needed to step into my dream career path.”
“I would love to follow my passion for food science and helping people and manage a nonprofit someday,” she added, “so the program just seemed like a perfect fit.”
Now with one semester under her belt, Iskandar is looking forward to building solid relationships with her peers and professors.
“I’m also looking forward to taking closer steps into my career path and becoming aware of areas in the nonprofit sector that could help me discover my passion,” she said. “I’m very excited that everything I’m learning in my classes is mirroring what I want to do with my life.”
Iskandar is also enjoying her time at CWRU and in Cleveland—she likes living in a new environment, experiencing the four seasons and having the opportunity to learn from every person she encounters.
“Clevelanders are super friendly,” she said. “The kindness and positive attitudes of our faculty and staff are definitely one of my favorite things about the Mandel School!”
Learn more about Iskandar in this week’s five questions.
1. What are you listening to, watching or reading that you’d suggest others check out?
I picked up an interesting book from the Mandel School Harris Library’s free bookshelf called Assertive Woman, published in 1975, and it’s just been fascinating. Another book I would recommend to people is The Power of Now. Oh, and everyone should watch the Pixar movie, Soul! I love music too—I sing and am a fast learner when it comes to playing instruments.
2. What is the most memorable life lesson you’ve learned?
That no action is too small. I feel connected to everything and believe that you don’t have to shower people with gifts to make someone’s day—just saying “hi” can have such an enormous impact. I’ve also learned to let go of the notion that life must be fair. During my EMT experience, I realized that life isn’t fair and that we shouldn’t ask it to be fair. We have to be able to see the good and the bad and learn how to cope and just keep going.
3. Which Cleveland neighborhood is your favorite and why?
I haven’t been here long enough to figure that out yet! But so far I do love Little Italy.
4. What season is your favorite and what do you like to do to celebrate it?
Fall is my favorite season! My favorite thing to do is purposefully walk around and explore. I loved exploring the Metroparks this past fall—I took a lot of pictures and videos of the changing leaves and wrote modern poetry about the season in the different languages I know (Arabic, French and English).
5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
I love how kind and understanding everyone is here. Also, the faculty and staff have given me so many opportunities to attend webinars, workshops and other extracurricular activities to expand my horizons and I’m grateful for those!