Student Group Marks Seven Years on Campus with Donation to Girls Inc. of Greater Lowell

A person holds an oversized check while seven other people look on. Image by Ed Brennen
Girls Inc. of Greater Lowell Executive Director Bopha Malone, third from left, accepts a $2,000 donation from Joy Tong Women in Business during the student organization's recent networking dinner at Four Oaks Country Club in Dracut, Massachusetts.

By Ed Brennen

Bopha Malone was still getting settled as executive director of Girls Inc. of Greater Lowell last spring when several members of the Joy Tong Women in Business (JTWIB) student organization reached out and said they wanted to help the nonprofit organization.

“I had never heard of Joy Tong Women in Business,” said Malone, who quickly got to know Manning School of Business students Nicole Wilson and Khadija Mir ’23 as they visited Girls Inc. once a week to mentor youngsters.

Last fall, JTWIB organized a fundraiser for Girls Inc., selling backpacks that were donated by alum John Pulichino ’67, ’14 (H) and his wife, Joy Tong ’14 (H), the organization’s namesake.

The students presented Malone with the fruits of their fundraiser — a $2,000 check — during a recent dinner celebrating JTWIB’s seven-year anniversary at Four Oaks Country Club in Dracut, Massachusetts.

Two people have a conversation in a room while people mill in the background. Image by Ed Brennen
Joy Tong Women in Business members Jenny Lerman, left, and Julia Marino chat during the student organization's recent networking dinner at Four Oaks Country Club.

“I am an alum of Girls Inc., and I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for strong, smart and bold women like you,” Malone told the students, her voice swelling with emotion. “I appreciate you so much for not just investing in us with the funds, but investing in us with your time.”

Several JTWIB alumni — including former presidents Kellsie Howard ’19, Kanya Derisme ’21, Heer Patel ’23 and Mir — attended the dinner, which was made possible by a grant from the Independent University Alumni Association of Lowell.

Howard, who founded the student organization in 2017, reflected on its mission to help women in the Manning School to thrive professionally, personally and within their communities.

Five people pose for a photo while standing behind a table that has a cake and cupcakes on it. Image by Ed Brennen
Former Joy Tong Women in Business presidents, from left, Kellsie Howard '19, Heer Patel '23, Khadija Mir '23 and Kanya Derisme '21 and current president Sarah Curley celebrate the organization's seven years on campus.

“The club has grown tremendously, and I’m so proud of how far we’ve come,” said Howard, who is a product manager at Warner Bros. Discovery. “I’m thankful for this organization and the connections I have made as I navigate my career.”

Current President Sarah Curley noted that eight JTWIB members had attended their first business conference in Orlando, Florida, this spring. The organization also funds study abroad programs, sponsors an award in the Rist DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge and will soon offer paid internships to students, according to faculty advisor Elise Magnant.

“We want to make the Manning School of Business a welcoming place where women from incredibly diverse backgrounds come together to shape their educational experience,” Magnant said.

Two people have a conversation while sitting at a table that has flowers on it. Image by Ed Brennen
Chancellor Julie Chen chats with former Joy Tong Women in Business president Kanya Derisme '21.

While there has been a slight gain in undergraduate enrollment of women in the Manning School — from 33% in 2017 to 35% this year — Assoc. Dean of Undergraduate Programs & Accreditation Amit Deokar said “we are on the right track, thanks to the efforts of JTWIB and the generosity of Joy Tong.”

Chancellor Julie Chen encouraged students to sustain the network they have created as they go out into the world.

“You inspire the younger girls (at Girls Inc.), and you inspire all of us who want to see the wonderful people in this room succeed,” she said. “You inspired Joy Tong to want to support this group, and that’s a testament to you.”