2020 Best & Brightest: Cassandra Raffi, Massachusetts-Amherst (Isenberg)

Cassandra (Cassie) Raffi

Isenberg School of Management and the Commonwealth Honors College, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

“I am a caffeine-loving, soon-to-be-CPA, with a passion for food, travel, and music!”

Fun fact about yourself: I am the youngest of 5 kids!

Hometown: Andover, MA

High School: Andover High School

Major: Accounting

Minor: N/A

Favorite Business Course: Business in Italy

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

Extracurricular Activities/Leadership Roles:

  • Co-Treasurer of Isenberg Women in Business
  • Co-Vice President of Competitions Elect of Beta Alpha Psi
  • Student Ambassador at the 2019 Women of Isenberg Conference
  • Teaching Assistant for Accounting 221
  • Mentor for Women in Business Peer Mentorship Program

Community Work:

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters through Beta Alpha Psi

Award and Honors:

  • Dean’s List (all semesters)
  • Recipient of John W. Anderson Scholarship Fund Award (Isenberg School of Management) Recipient of ALPFA Scholarship Award (Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants)
  • Recipient of Melanson Heath Scholarship Award

Where have you interned during your college career? This past summer, I interned at PwC as a Start Intern. In the summer of 2018 and the winter of 2019, I interned at Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU) in Marlborough, Massachusetts as a Fraud/Loss Prevention Intern. I returned the following summer of 2019 as a Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) Intern.

Where will you be working after graduation? Following my undergraduate graduation in the summer of 2020, I will be working at PwC in their Capital Markets and Accounting Advisory (CMAAS) practice in the Boston office. After this internship, I will complete my Masters of Science in Accounting during the 2020-2021 academic year while completing my CPA licensing. I hope to return full-time to PwC the following fall of 2021.

What company do you admire the most? I am lucky to be employed by a truly remarkable company, PwC. PwC promotes and nurtures a vastly diverse workplace across ethnicities, genders, and sexualities. While working in the Boston office this past summer, I met a breadth of individuals who work harmoniously in their professional environment. As a minority, I often worry that companies promote diversity programs to save face on the corporate scale and give the impression that they are diverse when they actually are not. I can confidently say that this is not the case with PwC; the culture they promote is not only diverse but inclusive as well. The firm has a number of affinity networks for women, disabled individuals, and underrepresented ethnicities. I believe much of their success as a firm is attributable to the diversity of the workforce, which brings in a host of new ideas and experiences to enhance the quality of the work they produce.

Who is your favorite professor? My favorite professor is Melissa Baker, who is a Hospitality and Tourism Management professor. This past semester, I completed the course “Business in Italy”, which was co-taught by Professor Baker. Throughout the course, Professor Baker was extremely engaging and genuinely excited about the material she was teaching to us. After the semester completed, the class went to Italy to apply our knowledge about Italian small businesses, politics, and economics. Professor Baker ensured that our experience was unforgettable, educational, and fun. Professor Baker is not only kind, but she truly cares about her students and the quality of course material to which we were exposed, both in Italy and in the States. While some professors make it obvious that their work is a job, Professor Baker’s approach to teaching makes it seem like less of a job and more of a passion.

What did you enjoy most about your business school? Isenberg is an extremely diverse school, which has benefited my studies tremendously. The school attracts a breadth of ethnicities, majors, and experiences. Having come from a predominantly uniform high school, this is extremely refreshing. I am constantly working with inquisitive individuals with unique experiences, both personally and professionally, which has made my studies enjoyable and interesting. Further, Isenberg is a community of individuals and fosters a feeling of connection between faculty and students. Members of the Isenberg community take great pride in being from such an esteemed school with a diverse, hardworking, and intellectual student body.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? A business education is not only professionally valuable but personally valuable as well. As a business student, I am exposed to knowledge that is greatly applicable to my everyday life. Generally, students seldom learn information that allows them to gain a better understanding of the “real world,” but such knowledge is fundamental to a business education. Business students regularly learn about the intersectionality of politics and economics, the effects of marketing on consumers, and how to prepare tax documents and understand financial statements. As future consumers, investors, and business owners, we must understand these ideas that are not formally taught to, for example, a student pursuing a psychology degree. I am an advocate for any prospective students to major in a business-related field as the skills fundamental to a business education are invaluable and transferable for virtually any career endeavor.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? Many of my peers in non-business paths are under the impression that business studies are strictly about money. Prior to coming to college, I too was under the impression that my studies would be primarily financial and numbers-related. When I began taking courses in accounting, however, I would hear my professors and advisors constantly repeat “accounting is a people business.” I was shocked. How could accounting possibly be a people business if accountants sit solely at their desks checking numbers, day-in and day-out?

First, I was pleased to learn that accountants do not sit in their lonesome cubes nor complete monotonous tasks for the duration of the workday. Further, I quickly learned that the nature of business studies, across all majors, is people-focused. A strong network is fundamental to a successful career in business. This can only be developed with a dedication to relationship-building. Success does not come from having a strong set of accounting-related skills, but rather the ability to develop and maintain professional relationships. My business school education has been enhanced by taking courses that teach the “soft skills,” that cannot be taught from a textbook, or on-the-fly in a professional environment.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? This past semester, I became a Teaching Assistant for Principles of Financial Accounting. I have always been an individual who gets nervous speaking in public and, at times, lacks confidence when in a large group of individuals. However, I have wanted to overcome this fear of mine for many years.

Initially, I was hesitant to apply for the position as it requires me to teach two 50-minute lab sessions to 50 total students each week. For the duration of the lab, I needed to speak clearly and confidently in front of all the students in hopes of enhancing their understanding of the material. The personal growth that has occurred as a result of this position is empowering for me. From my first lab session in September to now, I have grown increasingly more confident in myself and my ability to publicly speak. While many individuals are innately gifted with confidence, I was not one of them, and overcoming this fear of public speaking – while teaching a subject to which I am passionate – has changed my life in just a few short months.

Which classmate do you most admire? I had the pleasure to meet Carolyn LaBounty while living in the same dorm during my freshman year. We shared a number of courses together, namely Principles of Financial Accounting, to which we spent many nights toiling over financial statements and journal entries. Over the years, Carolyn has not only become one of my closest friends but someone I admire greatly. She is personable and bubbly, while also hard-working and intelligent. As an accounting major, Carolyn will be interning at Deloitte in the coming summer in their Audit and Assurance practice. She sits on the Executive Board Elect of Beta Alpha Psi and will be taking on the role of President next year. Carolyn distinguishes herself in my eyes because she is completely authentic in how she conducts herself, which is less than common these days. Carolyn’s personality and intellect position her for success in her professional life and I cannot wait to watch where her career takes her.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? Nirma Raffi is a Cuban immigrant, a mother of five, and a stay-at-home mom. As a young immigrant, she faced great adversity assimilating into a culture different from the one she knew. Nonetheless, she has allowed her life challenges to shape her into the woman she is today. My mother has always been my greatest supporter and one of my greatest friends. My ambition can, at times, turn into intensity, and my mother constantly reminds me of the importance of slowing down and taking time for myself. Nirma gave up an up-and-coming career in fashion buying to have a family to which she could properly dedicate time to raising. With such a large family, it often seems as though she has the world on her shoulders, but she allows her faith to guide her through hardship and remain resilient. Without the compassion and guidance from my mom, I would not have established a faith that has been strong enough to allow me success, both personally and academically.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Having recently returned from a trip to Italy, I have been looking for opportunities to travel internationally. In my professional career, I would love to complete a rotation abroad and have the opportunity to be immersed in a culture and society different from my own back home. Secondly, I want to be seen as a professional mentor to females pursuing traditionally male-dominated careers. When I worked at PwC this past summer, I was able to observe women in leadership positions and the tremendous respect that their staff held for them. As a young girl, I seldom saw females in influential positions in the business world. Luckily, women are increasingly taking on these roles, and I too hope that my career will be one that inspires young girls to pursue empowering careers.

What are your hobbies? When not found studying or working, I love to cook new recipes, listen to music, watch musicals, and work out at the recreation center. While I am largely an analytical thinker, I love being able to express myself creatively through cooking or enjoying music. I particularly enjoy showtunes and Broadway musicals. Going to the gym has also been an outlet for me to destress and, over the past year, I have gotten into weight training.

What made Cassie such an invaluable member of the Class of 2020?

“Cassandra Raffi has fully integrated herself into the very fabric of the school. Trying to list all of Cassandra’s activities is akin to cataloguing all of the various ways an undergraduate accounting major could be involved in the school. She is not only a member of Commonwealth Honors College and carrying a 3.98 GPA, but Cassandra also finds time to engage in leadership activities such as serving as treasurer for the Women of Isenberg Conference, the Isenberg School’s highest-profile public event. Cassandra is also a mentor for two underclassmen in Isenberg, serves as a student ambassador for the school’s admissions team, and as a volunteer in Isenberg Global Citizens. She is the current co-president for Beta Alpha Psi and is a teaching assistant for the introductory financial accounting course. Cassandra was an intern for PwC and will join the firm full time after she completes Isenberg’s one-year Master of Science in Accounting Program. Cassandra is always ready with a warm smile and an offer to help—she is truly an inspiration to Isenberg students, faculty, and staff alike. The school will be a very different place when Cassandra moves on to the next phase in her career but we know that she will stay engaged over her career and we look forward to all she’ll ring to that ongoing relationship.”

William D. Brown, Jr. 
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs
Isenberg School of Management │ University of Massachusetts Amherst


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