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Daniela Ortenzi

Class of 2020

When I came to college I figured that there would be a lot of things that I would have to give up, namely my love of music and dance, to succeed in my science courses and prepare for Physical Therapy school. What I have found is that these things have given me more life and enriched my college experience greatly, helping me to build a greater community at Walsh.

My major is what initially drew me here because I had heard of its good reputation. I have enjoyed the challenge Biology has brought me. I have to stay on top of my school work and anticipate what is coming next. And I know that this work ethic is preparing me for the next steps toward my career. The professors are also just wonderful. They knew my name from day one. They remember where I’m from, my major, the things I’m involved in. They are intelligent and experienced, many of them Walsh alumni themselves, but also make sure class is a good time. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear some dry science humor or catch a professor in the hall to share a funny story from the weekend. It makes the hard stuff worth it.

Joining the Dance Team my sophomore year has been one of my favorite decisions at Walsh so far. I’ve gotten to grow closer to awesome girls that I most likely wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise. It has given me the ability to continue a passion that I thought I would have to give up. I’ve also loved having Dance Team as an avenue to create. We all get to share ideas with one another to highlight everyone’s abilities and make some really fun dances. Sometimes it’s just nice to put together choreography instead of another paper. I’ve always thought of dance as such an integral part of who I am, so it only seemed fitting to incorporate that into my Walsh experience. Dance Team has made me realize you don’t have to surrender everything to be successful in college- in fact things like dancing have contributed to my success.

Like my experience with dance, I also thought college meant that I would have to give up piano lessons, but I was delighted to find out I could continue playing in college. That’s one of the things that has made my time at Walsh so truly special. The fact that I can study physical therapy and also graduate with multiple recital performances is a testament to the fact that I could pursue all of the things at Walsh that I care about. My piano studies have helped me become a more confident student. Professor Madaffer is constantly pushing me because she believes I am capable of always getting better, an attitude that also translates to my other studies and daily life. Studying piano here has kept me on that hardworking and motivated trajectory. I was able to perform a solo recital my last year of undergrad, which meant I had to spend all the previous semesters with that goal in mind. I think that lesson of discipline becomes an invaluable asset to carry beyond my college years.

The discipline that I have learned from the arts has translated well to the Honors Program.  I am the first student within the Honors Program to complete my Senior Thesis on an accelerated track in order to finish before graduate school. By working on my Senior Honors Thesis, I’ve also gotten early experience working with the Physical Therapy faculty at Walsh who will soon be my professors. In this process I have learned to be okay with confusion and asking questions, grown more mature in my communication skills, and have learned so many interesting things about PT and the disease I am studying. Though the research has been interesting, the community is a part of what makes Honors worth it. Having friends who are just as motivated as I am to do their best and be involved pushes me to be better. Honors is the main way that I’ve been able to meet people from all classes, older and younger than me. I wouldn’t have realized without Honors that these connections are so integral to your success in college. Everyone can benefit from having older students from which to draw experience and guidance, as well as younger classmates to be a leader to and to help mentor.

What has truly made my college experience most fruitful truly has made is how I have been able to grow in my faith.  I thought I’d go public for college since I’ve gone to public school my whole life up until now. But after pondering the college decision for probably much longer than a person should, it became obvious I was drawn to Walsh all along. Why? Because Christ is known and loved here. Development of faith and personhood takes precedence over all else, yet faith and reason always work to uphold one another on this campus. I love that, at Walsh, the sciences are thriving within a Catholic context. Frequently, colleges seem to reject one or the other, but Walsh embraces both simultaneously. So here I get to grow in many ways. Yes, I have learned things that will help me be a better PT, but most of that knowledge will come with my grad school training. But as a Walsh student, I’ve learned about myself and I’ve become a better version of myself than I was before I got here and I think that’s the hallmark of the Walsh experience. You simply don’t get to leave here until you’ve pushed yourself to do good, to make your little niche of the world better, to love the life God has blessed you with.