2020 Presidential Leadership and Scholarship Award Winner Discusses her Past, Present, and Future
By Madeline Riccardi, Editor-in-Chief
On a normal October day in 2020, Danielle DiNatale sat in a work meeting with her phone sound off.
When she exited the meeting and looked down at her phone, she noticed she had a missed call and email from Sister Candance Introcaso. It was then that she discovered she was the winner of the 2020 Presidential Leadership and Scholarship Award.
La Roche University officially recognized DiNatale for her win during the virtual award ceremony in November of the same year. But it was not until May 2021 that she was honored at a graduation ceremony.
DiNatale spent her time at La Roche as the Associate Editor of the La Roche Courier and President of the La Roche Chapter of the National English Honors Society, Sigma Tau Delta.
The VP of Operations and Marketing for Media: The Creative Agency also served as an Editor for Nuances, LRU’s literary magazine.
During her four years of undergraduate studies, the Summa Cum Laude graduate took part in internships for Media: The Creative Agency and the La Roche Marketing and Media department.
The Professional Writing and Journalism major graduated with a 3.984 GPA and received the Presidential Leadership and Scholarship Award as well as the Sister Victorine Verosky Award for Scholarship in English.
Each year, La Roche University nominates exceptional students for the Presidential Leadership and Scholarship Award. According to the La Roche University website, these students must “exemplify the values and characteristics of the La Roche mission statement, have exemplary academic records, and are effective leaders on campus, in the workplace, or in the community.”
DiNatale answered questions about her time at La Roche, career and her younger self.
Q. What was your thought process when you found out that you won the Presidential Leadership and Scholarship Award?
A. I remember when Dr. Janine Bayer, my advisor, first handed me a copy of the nomination letter. When I read that over, I stared at the paper and thought, “I really did all of that?” It felt unreal even though all of it was true. I had a very similar reaction when I found out that I’d won the award. Disbelief, and then joy.
Q. During your time at La Roche, which classes do you feel were the most important in shaping you into the person you are today, and why were these classes the most important?
A. I constantly fall back to Professor Ed Stankowski’s lessons from all my journalism classes. Not only was his advice practical for my career, but he always pushed me to follow my own path. That support was incredible, and I think about some of our conversations when I need certain reminders.
I took as many classes with Dr. Azlan Tajuddin as I could because I believe that if you don’t expand your worldview and try to understand other people, cultures, and experiences, you can’t write about people accurately. His classes helped me not only to be a better writer, but to become a better person.
The most unexpected impact came from Professor Crowley, who I once interviewed for the La Roche Courier, who convinced me to take specific criminology classes that heavily involved writing. I remember sitting down in one of the courses, knowing that this was an upper-level course and I’d only taken one intro prerequisite. I was the only person there without a criminology or political science major. I said to myself, “What am I doing here? I don’t belong and I won’t be able to keep up.” I ended up loving the class, and the next one I took after that. Not only did I expand my problem-solving and strategy abilities, but that proved to me that I really could do anything that I wanted in life. I was capable of more than I realized.
Q. In what ways has La Roche shaped you into the person that you are today both professionally and non-professionally?
A. La Roche exposed me to many different people, from students, to professors, staff and visitors. My experiences and interactions taught me so much that I take into both my personal and professional life. La Roche gave me many opportunities, which in turn taught me what my strengths are—some I wasn’t aware of when I first stepped onto campus in 2016.
Q. What do you believe was your biggest impact on La Roche/during your time at La Roche University?
A. What mattered most to me was when people would stop me after class and say, “Hey, I really liked what you said today.” Even now, I have friends who have individually come to me and said, “You’ve inspired me. I want to be like you.” It’s a little crazy for me because I wonder if people perceive me as having it all together; I really don’t. But if being myself is what teaches people who they want to be, then I think I’m doing something right.
Q. When you were a student at La Roche, you were an intern at Media: The Creative Agency. If Marta Greca did not offer you a job after your internship, where do you think you would be now professionally?
A. Given all that’s happened in the past year, that’s hard to answer. Life was completely upended when I graduated; it was still early in the pandemic, and people were still trying to adjust to all the remote changes. I remember classmates of mine panicking because jobs had stopped hiring. I really consider myself lucky and blessed to have been offered a job at a time where so many companies weren’t taking on new employees. I like to think that I would have made it work, but I rarely think about it because I’m so thankful that I transitioned immediately into a job when many people were losing theirs. If the pandemic hadn’t happened, I may have pursued an entirely different writing career and gone into Crime Mapping. But like I said, I don’t think about the “what-ifs” too much.
Q. What is your official position at Media: The Creative Agency and how long have you worked there?
A. I’ve worked at Media since December 2019 when I first started as an intern. I’m now the VP of Operations and Marketing.
Q. According to Marta Greca, you quickly moved up in the ranks at Media. Do you have any advice for other people who are looking to grow in their field like you did?
A. Put your best effort into what you do, even the little tasks. If you can show that you’re capable of your starting tasks, then people will have more trust in you later. If you want a responsibility, ask for it. I asked Marta after a couple months of working full time if I could take on heavier writing projects, and she agreed. After that, I kept moving up. Don’t wait for someone to notice you. Make yourself noticed by asking for what you want.
Q. What do you attribute your success both at Media and in your chosen field to?
A. I’d say hard-work, perseverance, and a willingness to learn. I am always looking to expand my knowledge so that I can do better. But I also do everything that I can to work around obstacles instead of stopping when they come up.
Q. What made you want to work in the field of marketing and advertising?
A. If you asked sophomore year me, I would have told you I was never going into marketing. I hated it! But I think it was a matter of finding the right kind of marketing where I felt like I was making a positive impact rather than just selling a product or service. Once I realized I could do that, it felt like a good fit. Plus, it’s creative writing, which I love doing.
Q. What are your favorite and least favorite parts of your job and why did you choose them to answer this question?
A. I love that I get to be creative every single day and come up with solutions to problems. With the marketing that I do, I get to help change people’s lives for the better, which is also fulfilling for me. My least favorite part would be that because I work heavily in social media, I am always having to adjust to new features. Anyone who has Facebook or Instagram knows what it’s like when features are changed or taken away, or how the algorithm will be different at the drop of a hat. It’s a lot of work to stay on top of platforms that are constantly evolving.
Q. What is the average day like working for a marketing/advertising company?
A. It takes a lot of communication. There is a lot of email back and forth between clients and team members, checking in on projects, and passing information along. I have meetings with clients to go over their strategies. Then, I’m reading over insights and looking at trends. After that, I sit down and create content, which is where I have to take on my client’s unique voice and write based on their strategy. I can’t stress how important it is to be organized in this field!
Q. Where do you see yourself professionally in 10 to 15 years?
A. Younger me has the same answer as 23-year-old me: I don’t know! I’ve never liked to plan so far ahead in the future. If graduating and starting a career during the pandemic has taught me anything, it’s to be flexible and take life as it comes. I look at my career as an adventure rather than a path I need to follow.
One thing that I do want by then, though, is to be a published author. That’s the dream!
Q. When you were younger, what job did you see yourself having when you were all grown up?
A. Believe it or not, this question used to paralyze me as a kid. I never knew what I wanted to do because nothing felt right. The only thing that I knew was that I loved stories in all forms: written, verbal, movies, documentaries, etc. I finally realized one day as I was scribbling yet another story into a notebook that I wanted to do this forever.
Q. As of now, have you lived up to what your younger self wanted to be? How do you feel about the fact that you have not changed since you were a child in this aspect?
A. Ten-year-old me realized that I didn’t just have to read stories, but that I could create them too. Then twelve-year-old me decided that this was what I was meant to do. She was right. I have never once questioned if this was the path for me, because it has always felt like mine to follow. To this day, I’m still as stubborn as I was back then. I faced a lot of opposition from people who told me that writing wasn’t a plausible career, that I needed to have a different plan. I never gave into those projected fears and kept going. I trusted myself then, and I trust myself now.