She’s a serial entrepreneur, ironwoman and advocate for women at Northeastern and around the world

headshot of Mary Ciampa
Mary Ciampa, Founder and CEO of WomenX. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Aditi Bansal is the vice president for external partnerships for the Women’s Interdisciplinary Society of Entrepreneurship, a student-run organization at Northeastern dedicated to mentoring the next generation of business leaders.

Bansal’s responsibilities include assembling a panel of experts for women in sports conference at Dodge Hall at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business on Sept. 20.

Bansal was originally thinking of a small panel for the event, which she thought would be attended by about 15 to 20 people. That was before she was introduced to Mary Ciampa by Betsy Ludwig, the executive director of Women’s Entrepreneurship at the university. 

Ciampa, a 1992 Northeastern graduate and serial entrepreneur, quickly connected Bansal to high-profile panelists. Since then, interest in the event has taken off.

“It’s become as big as it has because Mary has been willing to collaborate with us on it,” Bansal says. “For me, it started as pretty small—some students are interested, let’s host something. But speaking to Mary, I realized how much interest there is in it.”

Even though Bansal is a student, she says Ciampa doesn’t treat her like one. 

“She treats you very much like an equal,” Bansal says. “Which is sometimes rare when it comes to entrepreneurs who’ve grown so quickly. She’s amazing.”

Amazing can best describe Ciampa’s resume, which includes launching an online marketing company, working for a nonprofit focused on creating opportunities for women, founding a Spanish and English dual-language charter school, and most recently, establishing a women-only online education program.

Ciampa also keeps a bucket list, and she’s already checked off many things, including completing an Ironman triathlon. But others, like biking across the United States and learning to drive a semitractor-trailer, are still there.

At the top of her everyday to-do list is furthering women’s rights.

“Women are really at risk of losing their rights,” Ciampa says. “All we have is our knowledge, our brains. So I will be doing this until someone takes my body away from this earth.”

Ciampa grew up in New Jersey with her mother and two siblings, but she would often visit her father in the Boston area, which cemented her love for the city. When it came time for college, Ciampa applied to one out-of-state school—Northeastern. 

[Ciampa] treats you very much like an equal. Which is sometimes rare when it comes to entrepreneurs who’ve grown so quickly. She’s amazing.

Aditi Bansal, a Northeastern student and the vice president for external partnerships for the Women’s Interdisciplinary Society of Entrepreneurship

The university, Ciampa says, allowed her to blend classroom and real-world experience through co-ops and experiential learning. Only later in life was she diagnosed with dyslexia.

“I don’t know how I ended up here, but it changed my life,” Ciampa of Northeastern.

During her four years on the Boston campus, she worked as a co-op at Smartfood, which was being purchased by Frito-Lay. Ciampa convinced the brand manager at Frito-Lay to use the co-op students who knew the Smartfood brand before the acquisition to launch new national marketing campaigns.

Ciampa says it felt like the co-op students were running the business.

“It was amazing,” she says.

That experience and later studying in Paris, where she hardly knew the language, gave Ciampa the confidence to pursue her ambitions following graduation. 

In her 20s, Ciampa worked in business development at a startup when she landed a job at Razorfish Media. That’s where she met her future partners in Thinkmap, a company she launched in 1997 that developed online marketing for major brands such as Motorola, Merrill Lynch, the Smithsonian, PBS and Sony Music. 

But then 9/11 happened. Ciampa’s office was on the perimeter of Ground Zero, and she was supposed to have a mid-morning meeting at Merrill Lynch at the World Trade Center. Living in Hoboken, New Jersey, she learned about the terrorist attacks when she reached the ferry to New York.

She called her husband, who was working in the building next to the World Trade Center, to make sure he was OK. He was. 

Ciampa then began to question, “Why did I survive?” and realized, “Life’s too short.” 

So she decided to leave the company she founded and went to work for the Business Council for Bpeace, a nonprofit that works with entrepreneurs in conflict-affected countries to scale their businesses and create economic power for women. 

As her three children were growing up in Hoboken, she also helped found the first and only free public Spanish and English dual-language charter school in the state, HoLa, in 2010. 

About 10 years ago, Ciampa moved with her family to Boston, where her husband had landed a job. She joined the Museum of Science and Berklee College of Music boards.

Most recently, Ciampa founded a women-only online education program called WomenX. Launched in the summer of 2018, WomenX offers in-depth courses with 16- and 20-week curriculums and partners with Northeastern to provide a pathway to a degree. 

WomenX learners can earn transferable credits into Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies. At the end of June, WomenX launched the HerSport summer series, which examines how society views male and female athletes.

If Ciampa can be described in one word, “It is an adventure,” says Tiffany Bullock, the chief operating officer of WomenX. 

“It’s really fun. She’s super spunky. She’s super creative. She has big ideas,” Bullock says. “She also has a big heart to match the big ideas.”

Beth Treffeisen is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email her at Follow her on Twitter @beth_treffeisen.