Manasa Gopal joined the Eden Autism Board of Trustees in July 2021, but her personal connection to Eden began years ago. Through friendships with Eden parents and another trustee, she learned about the work happening at the Eden School. However, it wasn’t until attending an Eden Dreams gala that she learned just how impactful Eden’s work is across the entire lifespan.
“Just sitting at the table and talking to them — and talking to all the other people who are in attendance — I really got a sense of what an amazing organization it was,” she said. “The gala event really opened my eyes to how much Eden does not only for their families but for the whole autism community as well.”
Joining the board was an easy decision for Manasa, who believes in giving back to her community.
“I always wanted to use my skill set in some meaningful way. Not that I don’t do it professionally, but meaningful on a personal level as well,” she said. “People that have autism, or disabilities in general, are as much a part of our community as the rest of us are.”
Manasa has always been pulled toward public service. As an Associate General Counsel for Columbia University, she provides counsel primarily to the Columbia University Irving Medical Center on health care, business matters, risk management, and regulatory and compliance issues.
“The kind of work I do professionally supports the growth of healthcare entities and I help to address legal issues that affect people who deliver health care,” she said. Through her expertise, she’s able to offer guidance as Eden navigates access to care and state and federal healthcare regulations.
“We are extremely fortunate to have Manasa on our board,” said Eden Autism President & CEO Michael Decker. “Her expertise and passion for helping others uplifts our entire Eden community, and I look forward to continuing our work to help improve the lives of children and adults with autism.”
Manasa’s main priority for her service on the board is to maximize her impact. “I want to do something that is meaningful to the organization and to the people it serves,” she said. That starts with advocating for people who cannot advocate for themselves.
“You realize that people that have autism don’t always have a voice of their own, so there has to be people advocating for them on every level,” she said. “What I thought was just a school is actually so much more than that. Eden has an aging population, and the fact that they’re pivoting to look at all the things that affect that population — it’s a lot of strategic and long term planning, and I’m really looking forward to being part of that.”