Student leader inspires positive outcomes through ‘challenge by choice'

July 02, 2023

Headshot of Ellen Bissell, a current Quinnipiac student

With her philosophy of helping others attain positive outcomes through “challenge by choice,” Ellen Bissell BS ’23, MS ’24, is an inspirational student leader dedicated to supporting others in listening to their body, mind and soul.

Bissell brings positivity to the Quinnipiac community as a member of the QTHON management team, an e-board member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and a Balletone fitness program leader.

“Balletone sounds like ballet, but it basically means ‘ballet for every body,’” she said. “I have a personal belief I say in every class, ‘challenge by choice.’ You can challenge yourself in ways that are going to work for you and you can still be awesome.”

Obtaining her bachelor's in biology and a master's in molecular and cell biology through the College of Arts and Sciences accelerated dual degree program has kept Bissell busy academically, but she highly recommends finding time to contribute to the Quinnipiac community as a student.

In support of QTHON, Bissell served as the 2022 program administrator and the 2023 campus relations chair. Each year, QTHON unites the Quinnipiac community in an annual effort to raise critical funds supporting the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.

“As campus relations chair, I worked with all the team captains of each participating organization,” said Bissell. “It gave me a very holistic picture of the big impact of QTHON and it also allowed me to connect with so many different people around campus. I made friends through this role that I would not have known otherwise.”

She also had the opportunity to pair children from the hospital with different sponsoring organizations at Quinnipiac.

“It was really cool to get to make those connections, bring people together and make everyone happy,” said Bissell.

As a mental health advocate and mental health awareness proponent, Bissell strives to support others in their mental health journey through her membership in the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). She joined NAMI in her first year at Quinnipiac and was designated an e-board member in 2023.

“I’ve lost friends to suicide and have friends who struggle with mental illness every day, so that is my drive,” said Bissell. “I’m fortunate that I have a voice in this and that I can be a voice for others who may not necessarily be a voice for themselves. I like to use that outlet to be that voice and to help people. Some people just need a sign, and you don’t know what that sign is for someone. Simply being at an event fair, tabling for an organization that says, ‘stop suicide’ or ‘break the stigma’ - that could be someone’s sign.”

While completing her bachelor’s, Bissell volunteered in a neuroscience research lab studying depression and anxiety pathways with Joshua Haight, assistant professor of psychology.

“He is an amazing professor and mentor,” she said. “I also took a class with Dr. Haight on biopsychology and the brain, and it totally changed my perspective on what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it.”

Bissell plans to pursue her interest in neuroscience as a career with the ultimate goal of becoming a neurogenetic counselor.

In her academic community, Bissell is an active honors program participant and a member of the event planning committee for the biology dual degree program.

During Quinnipiac’s 2023 Undergraduate Awards Ceremony in April, Bissell was honored to receive the Health and Wellness Leader of the Year award.

“Being recognized for my efforts makes me feel really good because there’s so much out there about this idea of being ‘perfect' whether it’s regarding the body, fitness or being the smartest,” said Bissell. “It goes back to that idea of challenge by choice: you can be healthy in your own way, and that message is really holistic. It’s not just about physical health, it’s about mental and emotional health too.”

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