A Piece of the Pi – Guest Blog: The Post-Collegiate Perspective

This month, I had the honor of contributing to a post-grad blog series for Alpha Omicron Pi!  Link to original: A Piece of the Pi: Guest Blog: The Post-Collegiate Perspective I am a proud recent college graduate, who made the … Continue reading

What ’22’ Felt Like

22.1I turned 23 this month, which means my days of rocking out to Taylor Swift’s 22 are (kind of – sort of – not really) over. I decided to not focus on making my birth ‘day’ such a big deal, and instead focus on celebrating another year of life. On a side note, my birthday was wonderfully spent having breakfast and dinner with Matt, and spending the day at the job I love.

Here are 22 life moments that happened during my 22nd year. This is what 22 felt like.


1. I stayed involved
Piggy-backing off my Senior with No Senioritis post, I was very, very involved my senior year in college. I was Vice President of Communications for my sorority, a USF Ambassador, a Her Campus USF writer (& look at me now!), among maintaining a 3.54 GPA. I don’t take any of my busy days for granted, and I honestly miss running around campus – sometimes literally – with a packed agenda.

2. And had two awesome on-campus jobs
I was blessed to end my college experience with two very rewarding jobs. One was as the Community Manager (role of on RA) to my sorority house. Living in my own, FREE, room in the house was a dream — but came with many responsibilities. It actually caused me a lot of stress, but mainly because I care so much about my organization I put 110% into everything from a taco night to fire, health & safety checks. I also worked as the Marketing Assistant for Wellness USF. I met & worked so many amazing people who were powerhouses of passion. Promoting USF services & events + being healthy – win/win!

3. I graduated college
This year I graduated from the University of South Florida Summa Cum Laude with a BA in Mass Communications – Public Relations and minor in Leadership Studies. I am a proud alumna of my university, with a lifetime membership to prove it!

4. I became an alumna of Alpha Omicron Pi
With that, I also became an alumna of my sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi. I have made a promise to remain loyal to my fraternity, and will forever do that. ALAM ❤ Can’t wait to get more involved with the Boston Alumnae Chapter!

5. I was recognized for good works
I am not one to boast about awards, but they did play a big role in my 22nd year. I spoke at the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors Annual Meeting with Ginny Carroll from Circle of Sisterhood, received the AOII Shannon Walsh award from my chapter, and also received a Legacy Award from the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life. #blessed

6. I completed a year (and counting!) with a man that I love.
Matt & I are happily approaching our 2nd year (on Jan. 11!) and I am so thankful for him. He is my best friend and has been there for all my ups and downs. So glad we’re on this Boston journey together!

7. I stayed home
Many graduates fear moving back home after graduation. However, moving home for 3 months this summer was the best decision I could have made in May. Family rules.

8. I went back to summer camp
I will never forget summer 2014! Going back to being a counselor at Next Stop Broadway was a dream. I had the perfect summer with lifelong friends and good vibes. Love my NSB fam, always!

9. I got a job!
OBVIOUSLY a huge deal in my 22nd year! I graduated in May and worked hard to land a job by June! It is clear to see that I am incredibly happy at Her Campus Media.

10. I moved to a new state
I am in love with Florida, and I realize how much after I moved. BUT, Boston is so wonderful and I never regret the move. I am so excited for seasons (wish me luck in winter), and a plethora of good times ahead.

11. I never took family for granted
Every year that I get older, I get more attached to my family. I love how much you begin to understand them, and also how much they are always right.

12. I made new friends
Shoutout to all the new friends I made this year! Some are back in Florida and a good majority are here in Boston! Cue Michael Buble’s “Just Haven’t Met You Yet” as an ode to all the friends I will make while 23.

13. . . . And kept old friends
Having friends who were still your friend during that most awkward stage of life are true. My lifelong friends know who they are and I am so happy I got to see most of you this summer! Love you always. Thanks for the best #tbt photos.

14. I balanced being healthy + treating myself
I am a true #foodie and am an advocate for eating what you want. I’ve been too focused on strict diets in past years, and this year I feel that I did a solid job of finding a balance. Work Hard, *GO OUT TO EAT* Hard!

15. I was reminded that every day is a gift
Unfortunately, there have been to many lives cut short this past year. I know that is true in so many of our lives. Two beautiful girls from my high school were killed by a wrong-way driver, and so were 4 amazing fraternity men from USF not much longer. This is not okay. Don’t ever take a day for granted. Also, don’t drink and drive — it’s really not cool.

16. I moved in to my own apartment and I pay my own rent
I lived on campus all 4 years of college. With that, it is so exciting being in my first apartment! Paying my first bills were exciting . . . until I looked at my bank statement. Also, the goal of making your room look like an IKEA showroom is very addicting.

17. I got stressed out
Being involved, job searching, interviewing, etc. certainly created a lot of stress in my 22nd year! I had Matt by my side continuously telling me, “Babe, everything always works out.” He is always right when he says that, and I will aim for significantly less stress this year!

18. And I stopped letting stress get in the way (successful work in progress)
I have a great life to live, and these past few months have really inspired me to remember that. At least stressed spelled backwards is desserts . . .

19. I said thank you
It would be awesome if I could find out exactly how many times I said thank you this year, since I had so much to be thankful for! It is so important to spread that little act of kindness.

20. I made unforgettable memories
From staying up until 4 a.m. talking on the AOII house couch to buying a new Mac Book Pro with my savings, I had so many memories! I am glad I am one to take plenty of pictures — I had so much fun going through my FB albums from this past year to help inspire this post.

21. I laughed and I cried
And sometimes a combination of the two. This was certainly a very emotional year, and you can imagine how rough the 4 hour drive, alone, moving home from Tampa was. Thanks to everyone who made me laugh to offset the bad days!

22. Through all the ups and downs, I believed in myself
Lastly, I am where I am now at 23 because I believed in myself at 22.


Advice for ‘Turning Over a New Leaf’

6e6ce1df038177f4333dd17d01669bb9What an odd phrase – “turning over a new leaf.” I suppose the cliché stems from (necessary pun) the idea that leaves grow and fall, with new life always growing after them. I think that in times of change, any analogy we can relate to with others makes us feel normal.

There are many times where we get this energy inside that tells us it is the perfect time to ‘turn over a new leaf’; The first of the month, the first of the year, a birthday, a move to a new city, a new job, or the ever-so-relevant reality of graduating. It seems that every four years in my life so far I have become the ‘freshman’, for lack of better word. Now, I am proud and empowered because I am a woman with a college education soon to be entering the work force. Here are some struggles I have faced in this emotional last month of a new leaf, and my advice.

1. Be Happy for Others

It can be very frustrating to watch those close to you succeed while you are still finding your way. The constant news feed of “I am excited to announce that…” or “I have officially accepted…” is a natural irritant when we have not had the confirmation to boast of landing our next step. I had my moments where I felt irritated, but not for long. I know my values and personality have me naturally fueled with love and excitement for those around me who succeed. Tell your friends and family congratulations as they move forward, because your time will come – and in any situation, putting others down will never lift you up. So, shoutout to my boyfriend who is on his way to Boston/Northeastern University, and my sisters and close friends who are moving on to their dream schools and careers – I am so genuinely happy for you.

2. Be Proactive

10250230_651763731526886_2700241343909270402_n“Dreams don’t work unless you do”, said John C. Maxwell. This is undeniably true. In college, I was (yes, very hard for me to write was) very involved in multiple organizations and leadership roles, while ending with an overall 3.54 GPA – but that did not mean I automatically had a job waiting for me the Monday after graduation. I am currently in the job search process and have nothing to complain about. Job interviews teach me so much about myself, and actually serve as a great way to reflect on all that I have accomplished. If you do not get in to your dream graduate school, your next leadership role, your dream job, etc. just take on the next opportunity.

3. Perform Mitzvahs!
Translation: Express acts of human kindness.

Me earlier this semester presenting a USF Ambassador “Apple Polishing Award” to Anat Valdman, Program Director at USF Hillel. She is a dear friend of mine who performs mitzvahs every day and has inspired me to be the best version of my self.

This past week, I was busy running errands on my last full day in Tampa, frustrated at having so much to do with so little time. As I was heading to my car to complete the next thing on my list, I was spotted by a mother, father and daughter visiting USF in Greek Village. They approached me and said they were visiting from South Florida and that their daughter was interested in USF and Greek life. They then asked if it was possible to see a sorority house. I was their perfect match: From South Florida, huge advocate for Greek Life, and also the current Community Manager for my house. Their daughter is currently at my high school alma mater! Anyways, I showed them our home and poured my heart out about Greek life, leadership, friendships and absolutely everything else I could stress about how amazing my university is.  At the end of our ‘tour’ the mother said, “you completed a mitzvah today!” and gave me a hug. They had given me that final closure I needed before making my drive home from USF, and I thank them.


My dad and I recently reflected on how incredible a bookstore can be – from the smell of books to the excitement of buying one. My new read is Lean In for Graduates by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and a founder of the organization Lean In. The book is perfect for me because Sheryl Sandberg is an idol as she empowers women to lead regardless of stereotypes, barriers and challenges. I look forward to the inspiration I will gain from this book. Other books that have helped me in the past include The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, For One More Day by Mitch Albom, and Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie (founder of TOMS). 

Here is a plug for Sheryl Sandberg’s TED Talk, “Why we have too few women leaders”, which intrigued my interest to read her book.

5. Enjoy being home

DanielleI am currently spending time at home until I am 100% sure of where I am going next, and very thankful for that. Wherever your home is or whoever it is with, embrace it. I am blessed to be able to go back to the same house that I grew up in, surrounded by a loving mother, father, sister… and a silly puppy…and two very interesting cats. My dad joked that I would wake up my first morning at home and realize my entire college experience was all a dream. Fortunately, I did actually graduate from college. My family has supported me wholeheartedly and are there for me every step of the way. I will miss the crazy moments in my sorority house, the late night college outings and other countless memories. However, home is where the heart is . . . and plenty of old photographs to enjoy.

A Hopeful Graduate,

A Senior with No ‘Senioritis’

Credit: Alexandria Salmieri Photography

Well, tomorrow makes one week until I graduate. I have had my last exam, last class, and last formal among other lasts. I am a proud alumna of my sorority, and my parents have graciously given me lifetime membership to my university as a graduation gift.

With all of these closing doors, I have not caught the ‘senioritis’. I will be receiving 4 A’s and a potential 5th grade of an A- (so close) and continuing my housing position two weeks beyond graduation. I actually have been wearing dresses to class – not athletic shorts. I pride myself on never checking out. I am so proud to be a woman in education, and I will walk across that stage with honor as a first-generation college student.

These last weeks have been such a ride. I was honored with a Legacy Award at the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life for a legacy of Passion, Advocacy, Conviction, and Energy.

“The Legacy Award recognizes graduating seniors who have made significant impacts within their fraternity or sorority, council, and the USF fraternity and sorority community. Recipients are individuals who epitomize the values of their chosen organizations and actively work to advance the fraternal values movement. They are innovators, positive change agents, and students of character and integrity. Most importantly, recipients have built a strong foundation and left a legacy for others to follow. Because of their involvement, others can say that our fraternity and sorority community is better.”

Credit: Alexandria Salmieri Photography

I am so humbled by this award. My story is my drive to bring the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation as the USF Panhellenic philanthropy in spring 2011. This foundation raises funds and awareness for girls in poverty to receive an education. This journey has been made possible by so many Panhellenic women and other supporters – I look forward to seeing this cause grow, and thank all who have been a part.

So as I walk across that stage with my AOII stitched cap, AOII stole, and Ambassador Medallion, I will be representing four years of passion, drive, and energy. And okay – I think I deserve a day . . . or a few . . . to relax.

P.S. I was honored to receive the Shannon Walsh award for the second time by my chapter, an award honored to a most valuable sister in recognition of alumna Shannon Walsh, who embodies AOII values. All of my sisters are deserving of this. Just as important, Matt and I got cutest couple again! Cheers to commitment.

I am so proud of Matt, who will be headed to Northeastern University for graduate school. Me? Stay tuned for any updates on my next journey. The right doors will open soon enough.

– Danielle

Check out the Wellness Students of USF!


It is such a joy working at Wellness USF and promoting positive lifestyles. Take a look at our latest work (Huge shout out to student blogger/communications & social media assistant Shannon Gordon, and photographer Katina Bitsicas).

Check out the Wellness Students of USF! How do USF students stay well? Check out these Bulls and their wellness inspirations. 

via Check out the Wellness Students of USF!.

One Degree Away from Kevin Bacon

As seen on Her Campus USF 

If you’re reading this, that makes you two degrees away from Kevin Bacon! I had the pleasure of attending a private reception followed by a lecture with this philanthropic celebrity.


The University Lecture Series (ULS) has had a great run this school year with speakers such as Hill Harper, Nicholas Sparks, and Frank Warren to name a few. Well, for #USFWeek and the last lecture of the semester, ULS really brought home the bacon . . . with legendary Kevin Bacon (most recognizable from Footloose, Apollo 13, and the FOX TV series The Following, among others). Matthew Perry, or Chandler Bing from the past TV series Friends, was the original speaker who unfortunately had to take on another commitment. However, Kevin Bacon fans took over the Marshall Student Center ballroom and for a lecture that illustrated a passion for connectivity and doing good.

Bacon welcomed the audience in jeans and black leather jacket. At that moment, everyone in attendance became one degree away from Kevin Bacon. Bacon told the story of how the “6 Degrees From Kevin Bacon” fad started. He took us back to 1994, where he would ride subways and get tapped by teenagers saying, “ONE DEGREE . . .”I was just playing your game!” At first, Bacon was horrified by the game as he tried to have his career taken seriously. If you’re not familiar, the game is based on the concept where you can connect any two people on earth with six or fewer acquaintances. But that game turned into positive social change.


“The Footloose Foundation didn’t have the best ring”, Bacon told us, as he reflected on creating his organization. He expressed that being an actor can be such a self-centered thing to do, and that he wanted to make an impact beyond his creative work.
So for $3,500, he purchased SixDegrees.org and went from there. The website states that the organization is “social networking with a social conscience”. The idea is to connect celebrities with grassroot organizations around the world, whether through social media or celebrity “drop-ins”. To illustrate his cause, Bacon gave a surprise visit before his lecture to Give Day Tampa Bay and the Florida Next Foundation, who collaborate for a one-day online giving challenge to raise support for local nonprofits and grow philanthropy in the region. “We’re all connected, we’re riding this planet together”, said Bacon. He had us realize that before Twitter and Facebook, we were all still connected. While these social media tools can be said to separate us, they are in their own strange ways bringing us together.

ImageThe second half of his lecture was a question and answer session with Rich Scibtti from ULS. Of course, the session had to begin with mentioning Footloose. When asked if he thought it would be such a success, he joked about how he did not think it would be such a “dance movie” or how extensive the dances would be. Bacon would tell the director, “you can just turn the music on, I’ll dance.” A remake was made in 2011 with Kenny Wormald and Julianne Hough, and Bacon told us that his first thought was that he didn’t know it was time for the remake (this year marks 30 years since the original Footloose.
Bacon’s story of his journey to success continued, and we learned that he worked on and off as a waiter during his first years in New York. Soon, he landed the role of Chip Diller in the hilarious film Animal House with Saturday Night Live star of the time, John Belushi. Bacon revealed that with continuing as a waiter, he had to ask his boss could have the night off to attend the Animal House premier in Times Square (in which he arrived at via the subway system).

The evening concluded with a Q&A with lucky audience members who ran up to the microphones quick enough. There were true Kevin Bacon fans that shared their love for not as well-known films, such as Super, Beauty Shop, and even the animated film Balto. Through this closing session, we learned that the season finale to The Following is going to be bad a*** and that, not-so-spoiler alert: “some people will live and some won’t.”

Bacon also spoke of his wife, actress Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer, Phenomenon), and how their matching careers have made for a great relationship. For Bacon’s career, it is not about the size of the part or the size of the budget – he will do a major comic book film, or an indie film – though he does prefer dark roles and dark works. When asked about challenges, he said, “I’ve had some really tough times where I questioned everything, but I never questioned quitting.”

Audience members left the lecture inspired to check out SixDegrees.org and maybe re-watch Footloose, for we now understand the philanthropic and down-to-earth actor that is Kevin Bacon.


40 days, but who is counting?

In a past post, My 40% of Happiness, I noted of learning that happiness is 50% genetic, 10% circumstances and 40% – intentional (you choose). So, I find today to be an appropriate day to reflect since I graduate from the University of South Florida in 40 days.

A lot can happen in 40 days. In the past 40 days, I have transitioned out of my last executive position within my sorority, traveled to Boston with Matt, celebrated the birthdays of my sister and dad, and learned more about myself along the way.

Boston was my most alternative spring break, and thus the most rewarding. It was interesting when people would ask why we were in Boston – Our replies: “I am visiting graduate schools!” and “I have a job interview!” – pause – Where did our lives go?

Things are happening so fast, but I have to remember that I am 22 – and feelin’ it! I had the opportunity to interview with one of my dream PR agencies, and I hope that door opens for me. Plus, Matt got accepted to Northeastern University and I am so proud of him!

We visited the original Cheers, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston Tea Party Museum, Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market, Harvard, Northeastern, among other hot spots. I even got to see my lifelong friend Becca – plug for Becca Bakes – and my friend Megan who I worked with at GolinHarris. Matt and I ate a lot of food, with plenty of lobster & chowda to choose from, and you can bet that I took a picture of everything. Follow me on IG @deekush if you appreciate a meal in your feed at least twice a day. No shame in being branded as a #foodie. Oh, and another plug for comedian Josh Blue who we saw at Laugh Boston!

Matt always tells me that everything works out. And alas . . . it always does.

Now, I am going to graduate from USF in 40 days with every week someone asking me, “So, what’s next?!” I will definitely let you all know as soon as I know. I have had so many opportunities here at USF within sorority life, my on-campus jobs, and the honor of serving as a USF Ambassador (crazy that we just welcomed our new class last week and I’ve reached my 1-year mark!)

40 days seems like a lot, but it is not. I will take each day one by one and enjoy the moments.


My 40% of Happiness

I don’t always watch Netflix, but when I do it is a documentary.

This past week I watched two documentaries, Blackfish and Happy. There are a million things I could write about Blackfish – which goes into the history and truth about Tilikum, the orca that killed Sea World trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010 as well as how orcas are treated in captivity. You so should watch it! What I took away from Blackfish, was that humans are so consumed with the need for entertainment and money that we can potentially destroy earth on our own. As a rising PR specialist (fingers crossed), I hope to not be consumed by that.

And then I watched Happy. Now, I am behind because this movie in 2011 – but it is never to late to explore life’s greatest emotion –  happiness.

Here is what research shows about where our “happiness” comes from:

50% – genetic, 10% – circumstances, 40% – intentional (you choose)

How ridiculous yet awesome is it to know that only 10% comes from circumstances?Basically, our happiness is not defined by the situations we encounter in our lives – a breakup, losing a job, wasting money, missing a deadline, an argument, being bullied. Just remember that statistic the next time you think your life is over!

So with that, we have to realize that genetically not all of us are as easily prone to instant happiness. The way I see it, that explains why some of us handle situations different, have a more positive outlook or simply get over things quicker. Beyond that, I think we need to focus on that 40%.

What is it that YOU CHOOSE to do that makes you happy? I have been pondering with this question since I watched the documentary, and I am not entirely sure… but I think at 22 years old that is okay. Below are things that I know make me happy.

1. My major. I am not set on what route with PR I will take, but I want to promote positive images through genuine acts of charity, remaining focused on the ‘why’ of a brand or organization. Take a look at WestJet’s Christmas Miracle, if you have not yet. That is the kind of stuff that I want to be a part of.

Being awarded the Deanne Roberts Scholarship from ChappellRoberts

2. Surrounding myself with motivated individuals. I am consistently amazed by the good works of my family, friends and sorority sisters all over. I am so happy being in a relationship with Matt because we are both motivated and driven to be successful – and not by money, but by loving what we love to do.

3. Reuniting with old friends. Every time I come home, I struggle with knowing who is home and who I can hang out with. I have certainly made a new life for myself at USF- but if any of my high school friends are reading, just know that I miss you and I want to hang out.

4. Theatre. All my life I dreamed of being a theatre major! I actually began USF as a theatre minor, but fell in love with mass communications and could not commit to the course requirements of both. I’m lucky to be dating someone who shares that love, who visited me while I was interning in New York with me and waited 3 hours to score $27 Book of Mormon tickets.

Me in the middle as Maria, Lend Me a Tenor – South Florida Cappies 2010

5. Being relaxed. I am somehow always stressed about something – sorry Matt, I know you are a #1 witness to this but somehow love me anyway. I like to be on time and ahead of the game, I like when I can depend on others. But I do manage to find moments where I can just listen to music and clean my room (yes, that genuinely makes me happy), or when I can read (or write!) a good blog post.

Overall, the next time I get really upset or overwhelmed, I am going to remember that that circumstance is only 10% of my happiness, and I can bust through it by choosing the 40%.

What do you think is in your 40%? And I am open to other documentary suggestions. Here is a trailer for Happy!