MSc International Management

Heather Strassel's AUP Experience Redefines Resilience and Purpose

April 09, 2024

Heather Strassel embarked on a transformative journey at AUP, where she joined the MSc in International Management program, seeking to enrich her extensive experience in public service. With a solid background in Public Administration and a decade of dedicated work with the homeless and mentally ill in Boston, Heather was ready for a new chapter in her life. AUP both provided a unique NGO track allowing her to specialize further in her field and became a crucial support system during the most challenging time of her life.

Heather Strassel

Heather Strassel came to AUP with a Master’s in Public Administration and over ten years of experience working for an NGO that helps the homeless and the mentally ill in the Boston area. She decided to join the MSc in International Management program when she was ready for a life change, choosing to pursue the unique NGO track to further specialize in a field Heather was already very familiar with; but she could not have anticipated all the ways in which AUP would indeed change, and even, she says, save, her life. 

Upon arriving in January 2020, Strassel intended to complete her degree in one year and return to the United States when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It was a tough time for everyone, but, she says, she “probably handled it better than most” because two weeks after lockdown was announced in Paris, she was diagnosed with cancer. She explains that AUP offered immediate and exemplary assistance.  “The AUP Health Office was amazing,” she says; professors stepped up to support her, and staff accompanied her whenever necessary. As her 1-year program turned into a 2–3-year program, the AUP community truly became a replacement family, she says, mobilizing on all fronts to provide whatever she needed. “AUP went above and beyond,” she reiterates, adding, “I owe my life to AUP.”  Strassel also expresses gratitude for being in France when she was diagnosed, pointing to the full coverage of all treatments and to the quality of care.

Coming out of her battle with cancer, she obtained a grant to do research in Greece, a country she had visited and fallen in love with before coming to AUP. Thanks to this grant, she was able to live in Athens for three months working with a small NGO that provides mobile laundry services for the homeless. This experience provided her with data for her thesis written as part of the MSc in International Management.

After graduation, Strassel maintained connections with this NGO and with AUP, the data from her thesis also being used to produce a consultancy report for the MSc in International Management program. In addition, she even became a TA for a course in AUP’s NGO track and took students on a study trip to visit the organization in Athens.

“I’ve always had a passion for helping people,” she says. The MPA program she attended in the US was a very practical business degree, but AUP’s MSIM program and the NGO track “really provided an in-depth and nuanced view,” integrating complexity theory, for example. Even courses in organizational behavior or international finance provided opportunities to be a little creative, she says. It was only logical, it seems, that she give back to the program and to the University that gave so much to her.

Heather has since decided to stay in Paris and has integrated the American Business School of Paris as Financial Officer, testifying yet again to her personal growth and transformation facilitated by her time at AUP.