In 2011, Aileen Farrelly came back to Manhattan College to visit one of her favorite professors, Ahmed Goma, Ph.D.
Farrelly was aware of a job opening in the accounting department at Manhattan, which required a doctoral degree. She did not have one and figured she would ask Goma to allow her to be his assistant in whatever research he was doing. She saw it as an opportunity to learn how to conduct research and decide whether it was something that she would be interested in doing.
But, Farrelly received some unexpected news, when Goma suggested that she apply for the position instead. The department needed someone immediately and Farrelly was qualified.
It was a job she landed—becoming a visiting professor, internship coordinator for the School of Business and assistant dean of the School of Business—in a place that Farrelly—a Manhattan College graduate of the class of 1995—has considered home for more than 20 years.
“She’s a real Jasper,” Goma said about Farrelly.
The Jasper green rubbed off on Farrelly from her father, who graduated from Manhattan and convinced her she too had to attend. A native of Queens, Farrelly wanted to stay in New York City for college, and had Columbia, New York University and Manhattan as her top choices.
After hearing for so long about the work of the Christian Brothers, which she was a big supporter of, and of Manhattan’s quality accounting program, she decided Manhattan was the place for her.
At Manhattan, she became involved in numerous extracurricular activities, including cheerleading—where she had the chance to go to two NCAA Tournaments with the men’s basketball team—and the Mini Baja club—where she kept the books for the engineers who built a car from scratch.
“I think the most important thing from when I was here was that I felt very comfortable,” Farrelly said about her time as a student at Manhattan. “I had no trouble going in and asking teachers questions. I was guided in a way that was perfect for me and I saw it happen with my friends too. What’s perfect for me was not always perfect for other people. But, the faculty, the Brothers, the dean were all looking out to see how you can be the best student and get out of here the most successful that you can be.”
The support Farrelly got from the faculty at Manhattan was something she cherished. For Farrelly, Goma and Brother Robert Berger were two of the most influential professors and mentors she has ever had.
It was Goma who told her to apply for the job in 2011 and it was Berger who set up a lunch with the dean of the School of Business.
But before Goma served as a job recruiter, he was Farrelly’s accounting professor. Goma remembers Farrelly as a mature, straight-A student, who always participated in class and sometimes participated so much, that he would tease her and pretend to ignore her.
Ignoring Goma was something Farrelly did very little of. As part of the Alumni Board at Manhattan, Farrelly came back to campus several times per year, and made sure to visit Goma whenever she was at Manhattan.
“He was extremely influential in everything that I did as far as my career,” Farrelly said about Goma. “He hooked you up with the people that you needed to know not only educational wise, but career wise he helped you, and he is still like that. He hasn’t changed really. So, it’s great to be back with him.”
Goma was able to recommend Farrelly to internships at KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers, where she worked at for eight years after graduating.
“I can say, and I always tease her with it, ‘God didn’t give me girls, only three boys, but you are exactly like my daughter,’” Goma said about his relationship with Farrelly. “We are very close. The relationship between me and her you can say is like father-daughter.”
Now Farrelly is back, alongside Goma, and teaching students what she learned from Goma.
“I hope to make students feel the way I felt when I was here,” Farrelly said. “I hope that what they’re saying about me is what I said about Dr. Goma or Brother Rob.”
One of those students Farrelly has grown a kinship with is Matthew Sullivan, who is in the last year of a five-year business program. Sullivan first encountered Farrelly in an accounting 201 class and since then, has considered Farrelly a mentor.
Sullivan goes to Farrelly with any questions he has about his resume, internship advice, or schoolwork, and appreciates more than anything her straight-up approach.
“She’s going to tell you it like it is,” Sullivan said about Farrelly. “She doesn’t sugarcoat anything. She’s going to tell you what you need to do and how to get there.”
Farrelly will soon be joined at Manhattan by her daughter, who next year, will continue what has become a family tradition of going to school there.
In the meantime, Farrelly will continue to take on all the responsibilities she gets. She can’t complain. She’s at home. At Manhattan College.
“Since I’ve been here, I really hardly have said no to anything,” Farrelly said. “I’m learning so much every time I do something that I find it hard not to do it. I just want to figure out what it’s all about.”