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Success from Her Campus: Danielle Manning

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at IUP chapter.

Words by Taylor Russell:

This article is an interview with a IUP HerCampus Alum. Famously known as Danielle (Dani) Manning. Dani was a big part and is still (even in memory) a big part of HerCampus! We love watching Dani bloom into the person we know she would be! With great honor I got to interview her, and hear her take on a few questions that I feel is great advice and gives life a new perspective. 

Interview with Danielle Manning:

Q: Tell me a little about yourself for the people that may not know you!!

“I graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in May 2023, but while at IUP I was very involved in on campus activities. I have been an officer of a business professional organization (Phi Gamma Nu), a social media coordinator and writer for Her Campus, and a brand ambassador for our university co-op store. Currently, I’m a graduate student in a masters of education program for Human Sexuality. I am living far from my Her Campus chapter, but I still keep in touch with the executive board team. They’re such a great group of girls.”

“Back in 2021, Her Campus was an organization I was thrilled to join because it has such a huge national and international network. Her Campus gave me the opportunity to meet so many inspiring, like-minded college students and creators. I went to Her Conference this past June, and I will absolutely be going back this upcoming year as well.”

Q: What made you choose psychology and specifically human sexuality?

“Honestly, it was a journey of discovering what I wanted to study in college. I’m very fortunate to have a support a family that believes in education. My parents did not have the same access to education when they were my age. Generally, in my family people don’t commonly go to university. In my generation of cousins and siblings, many of us have gone to school, this is a huge source of pride for my family. My parents wanted me to go to college, mainly for the prestige of saying they were able to give their child education, but also as a back up for me to have, regardless of career. My parents come from a generation that believes a college degree equals success. I grew up knowing that I would be going to college regardless of anything, and I am so grateful that I had that support.” 

“However, tuition in the United States is not affordable. When I came to college, I had no idea what I wanted to study. I went through phases of exploring different classes and different friend groups, before I felt called some path of study. My dad tried convincing me that a business degree would be a safe choice, but one of my first friend groups in college changed my mind. All I know is that I loved people. That’s it. I didn’t feel passion for anything else, or interest in really anything else, other than learning about people and their personal lives. I feel like I just have an innate curiosity about people and I always care what someone is going through. True, I love sex, and I love learning about it, but I really questioned if I could make a career from an interest like that. I had been following sex, positive creators and sex educators for years at that point. I didn’t think that I could talk publicly about sex the way they did. What would my family say? All of it intimidated me.” 

“One of the students on my residence hall floor was listening to me talk about my confusion with my degree, and they told me that I should be a sex therapist. It seemed out of no where. I don’t remember what the full extent of the conversation was about, and I don’t know where that suggestion came from, but it was something I thought about before. Because my parents wanted me to get a degree kind of just to “have it” basically… I felt kind of pressured to pick a career and figure the rest out later. I was really intimidated by the idea of being in school for so many years. I knew that I loved learning about sexuality, and I knew that anything taboo really interested me, but when I saw how much schooling is needed to become a sex therapist, I decided to stop researching it. My family is a little bit more conservative, so this career path wouldn’t have been something I ever explored with people close to me. It really wasn’t until that one person, in my second week of college, really spoke to me plainly and told me that I could realistically do that job. They told me that I had a really calming presence, and they said I was really easy to talk to. I’ve heard that from friends before, and I’ve experienced being the peacemaker friend/the “therapist” friend before, but actually being encouraged to do that professionally was different. They told me that if I had a passion for something, I didn’t have to figure out all of the answers right away. They told me that if I wanted to be a sex therapist, I don’t have to get to masters degrees or a doctorate immediately when I’m 18– or any huge undertakings like that. They really encouraged me to just take a few classes in psychology and get that background first, and then figure it out later. At this point, I had started to meet a couple of friends that were studying psychology already. I decided to reach out to them, and learn more about their program. In January 2020, I officially declared my major as psychology, and I planned to leave space to decide the rest later. During the spring of 2020, I was forced to leave my college dorm. With all of the downtime at home, I started to get critical about where I would study sexuality to further my education. It has been a really long journey to get here, but I can probably say that I’m actually a student in one of my dream programs.”

“A few months ago, I heard a really inspiring quote for starting your professional path: “ just start where you are.” And that’s what I’m doing.”

Q: Why should others pick her campus? 

“In terms of what? Like as the one club to join?” 

FQ: Kinda? I feel like being around you as a person influenced me to want to join similar groups as you because you made it seem fun or interesting in a way that peaked something in me. So I’m asking why you think people should feel the interest in joining her campus like you did for me. 

“Well, like I mentioned before, my personal interest in joining was because I wanted an organization with a big network. I wanted to join an organization that was inclusive, but still was empowering to women. I was manifesting a sisterhood to come into my life. I was manifesting a support system, and an organization with a good cause. Her Campus does so many interesting things, as a general unit. They spread awareness about current events, current issues in the world, at the same time, though, they aren’t overly political, and they have so many facets to their work. They do brand promotions, merchandise, conferences, etc. Her Campus even has other companies that branch off of it and allow for professional development and growth with their members. Her Campus supports up-and-coming content creators, and generally anyone looking to join a strong community. I keep wanting to say that it’s such an empowering community for women, because that was my experience with it, but Her Campus is really inclusive to all genders.” 

“More than anything, I would say to get involved with as much as you can on your college campus space, but joining Her Campus would be something I recommend most of all. Even if your chapter is small, like ours was, for example, you can still make such great connections and make a huge impact for your school. Whenever I was the social media coordinator for our chapter, I made quite a few friends on social media that were either also doing the social media work for their chapters, or if any students had written articles that interested me! Her Campus gave me a lot of opportunities for networking and growth. And you know me. Whenever I get an opportunity, I always say yes to it, and I take full advantage to expand with it.”

“I am so proud that I influenced you to join Her Campus, because I truly believe that it is such a friendly space, and I love that you’re involved!”

Q: What would be some advice as an IUP alum that you have for current students and students about to graduate? 

“Take your time. Personally, I am someone that appreciates where I am for as long as I can. I find that anytime I interact with people older than myself, I always get the advice to live while I’m young, to “just do everything you can” and “don’t have any regrets.” I made it my mission before graduating college, to do everything that I wanted to do. You (Taylor) were part of that. One of my goals was to join the national organization, I was able to do that with Phi Gamma Nu and Her Campus. One of my biggest goals, though, was to have a greek family. I wanted so badly to have a Big and to have a Little, or multiple! During my senior year, I was able to get a little through Phi Gamma Nu, and during my last semester, I was able to add you to our family as one of my Littles! I wrote about it, and one of my last HC articles, before I graduated, but you were honestly the completion of my last goal for college. Absolutely analyze everything you want to do before your time in college is done. Make it happen, because you absolutely can.” 

“My advice to current students, or rising graduates would be to savor time. More than anything, just appreciate the time you have left. This is really easy for me to say, because as much as I miss the people I’ve met in school, I don’t miss my college experience at all. For example, it kind of disappoints me when I see people saying how much they miss college, but when I think back on being in school with them I remember they were always rushing to get to the end of the semester, or just wanting to get through to graduation. Like, girl, you were always irritated with school, why do you miss that? Now, as valid as it is to be burnt out or done with something, definitely take a moment to look around and make memories. Remember how it feels to walk across campus while you are still a student. What does that feel like to you? Remember how it feels to rush from your final class of the day, to any of your organization or team meetings. What does that feel like to you? Would you ever miss that? Don’t wait until the last week of college to show your appreciation for your friends, or say how much you’re going to miss everyone. Do it now! Create those bonds, remember those feelings.”

“For me, I really tried to take the time during my senior year to analyze everything I was experiencing. I did this intentionally so that whenever I was no longer in school, I was aware of it. I didn’t want to look back wistfully and miss something that stressed me out at the time. The lesson I try to give my sister— a current student at IUP— is that there is a blessing in every stressful moment. I also try to remind myself if that wherever I am.”

“Don’t rush your final time in college.  Just be present and exist there!”

Q: What are some life lessons that altered your brain chemistry (during college) that you would like to share??

“An obvious one feels like my trip to Australia. I went for an internship, but I got so much more. Before I arrived, I really thought I would be going straight to graduate school, or even earning a grad degree abroad. When I was in Sydney, though, I met people that changed my mind a little. I started considering being a flight attendant, being an au pair, or even staying in the United States longer than I planned! Living there was such an enriching experience of seeing the world. It inspired me to crave travel even more than I had before. Even though I am currently in a wonderful grad program, I’m already thinking of my next professional goal outside of psychology. My time in Australia got me in connection with someone from my internship that was able to write me a wonderful letter of recommendation for future jobs. She also wrote a recommendation for my application to the program I’m currently in. If you haven’t gotten the common theme with me here, my greatest resource is my social capital. As I said before, I love people, and I feel like my life is made better by knowing others.”

Q: Did her campus help you prepare for your future career? 

“In a way, yes. It definitely gave me space to write about sexual topics. I think it allowed me the chance to meet other students who might have an interest in sex therapy or sex education. Most of all, though, it connected me with an organization based in Spain, that seeks to provide accessible education materials for sex education, as well as ethically made porn. Because of my connection with her campus, I was able to be excepted as a student representative for The Porn Conversation. Their platform supports, creating ethically made porn through three of their media brands, but also incorporating how the Internet and porn can be an avenue that is often overlooked/mishandled when parents and educators talk to young people about sex.”

“They are wonderful organization that I still have ties with. Since I’m still a student, I am still considered a student ambassador for them! In one of my last psychology classes at IUP, I gave a presentation that offered them as a resource, and I explained the work that they do!”

FQ: For someone like me that feels awkward about talking about anything intimate why do you think sex shouldn’t be so hush hush? And why should people not be scared to talk about it? 

“Simply put: sex is everything. Sex is how life is formed. Sex can bring endorphins, and literature supports that sex can *heal* (based on aiding immune system support). Sex is magical! Now, that’s just me loving sex as a concept. 

“Overall, though, sex should not be a great secret. Anyone can have sex, and the majority of the population wants to. Sadly, though, that same majority is usually at a disadvantage in receiving sex education or learning about it. Sex should not be a topic that is reserved. Now, I completely make space for people that prefer to reserve sex before marriage or for their own personal boundaries however, that looks for them. The *topic* of sex itself, however, should be accessible in understanding. Sex is natural and shouldn’t be “hush hush,” as you say. People are usually scared to talk about sex because of the conditioning they received in their upbringing, some folks also have trauma associated with sex and that’s also valid.” 

“Sex, as a word can sometimes make people uncomfortable, or just intimidate them to the discussion about it at all. I am a firm believer that there is no downside to education. I believe that education brings knowledge and knowledge brings power. Sex shouldn’t be something to fear.”

Q: What is some advice you would give to younger you? (Would it be the same advice you give to others?)

“I believe everything happens for a reason. Sometimes I think giving advice to my past self would restrict me from going through all the necessary experiences I have to have. For real, though, I’d tell myself that she’s doing enough. I overthink so much, and that leads to me preparing or over preparing for a lot of things. No matter how prepared you are or where things think they may be, life is always subject to change. I would tell myself just to be aware that you’re doing enough to the best of your ability at the current moment. Don’t look back and judge yourself for not doing enough.”

Q: Who is someone that influenced you towards your future career?

“If I’m being transparent, my career is shifting a little. I’m remaining open to changes and ready for new experiences. When you ask who has influenced me the most… I’m trying to think of the last person that made me think “I want to *be* them!” in a genuine, thrilling way.” 

“As of late, that’s been Gina Garen. Now, okay, she’s not involved in psychology, or sex therapy or anything like that. She works in drag queen management. Her career is just so vast and extensive that it impresses me so much! Let me tell you about this woman. So, yes, I’m fascinated by her. I’ve also met her! Very briefly. Okay, so do you remember Blythe dolls? They were around when we were kids, but they were more in ad campaigns. Well, they existed in the 1970’s, they didn’t do well, and then in the late 90’s, Gina basically popularized them again. She’s amazing, yes. Anyways, I learned that she had decades of work with the Blythe doll and that she tracked to conventions (BlytheCon’s) to speak about her work. At some point, she transitioned to working with drag queens, and now she manages queen’s professionally. I knew of her because some of her clients have mentioned her name on podcasts or on their social media, and the I started following her instagram. When I went to see Adore Delano perform in Dallas for the full moon, I met Gina. I actually shook her hand. Days later, when I learned about who she actually was (all that info above that I just told you), I was just in awe of her. Anyways, I know I just popped off about my love for this woman, but there’s a point, I promise.” 

“She inspires me to think that I can do anything I want, but also *multiple* things. I can have so many choices in my professional life and still be successful. When I started researching her background, I just started thinking, “I want to *be* just like her” like, her life is incredible and she humbly knows it. That’s my goal: to be aware of how blessed I am, living the dream, and so fulfilled, but still remaining humble and kind. So far, I think I’m on the right track.”

Q: How do you work on yourself? 

“Oh girl, that’s all about mindfulness. Working on yourself is so personal, but for me, it starts with knowing what you want to work on and how to start.  I do a lot of self-assessing, a lot of thinking, and just a lot of mediation and meditation. It’s personal and really subjective for everyone. I’d say that you work on yourself by asking yourself what you want to work on. Start with the question. That’s just me.”

Q: What are your future goals after grad school? 

“At the moment, I am figuring it out. As we know, I love sexuality, counseling, and education. My program requires an internship, so when I complete that, I expect to learn a little more about where I feel comfortable in the field. I feel that life has been throwing me a lot of curveballs lately, but I’m taking the time to learn from them. Honestly, though, I’m really okay. I’m at a point where I’m okay with not knowing, because I’ve found that life always has a way of changing plans. No matter what, I am content to earn my masters degree, and complete that alongside any job I find. My future goals are all about letting the energy flow. I’m ready for whatever finds me.”

Q: What do you feel most grateful for in your life?

“Oh that’s a good question. I have had such a fortunate life, and I have a lot to be grateful for. To be broad, I would say that I’m grateful for abundance. Not only is it something that I manifest to keep around me consistently, but it’s a state that I’ve lived in for all of college. If it wasn’t for abundance I’ve cultivated, I could have never afforded college. I manifested a $6,000 a year scholarship for 3 years, and that helped me so much in holding less anxiety about my education. Before I went overseas, I manifested a fully funded trip to Australia. Before I moved to Philadelphia for grad school, I manifested great job and I got two of them. Aside from financial abundance, I’ve been blessed to have been surrounded by an abundance of company. I find that my energy is pulled toward opportunities of fun, networking, and joy. My social life is often abundant. I am most grateful for the abundance that exists within my life and that I continue to carry with me.”

Q: Is there something you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Have you done it? If not, why? 

“Ha! Girl I know what you’re getting at. Firstly, I want to say, initially: no. But at this point: yes. Like I said before, I never really had any dream in terms of a future career or life path. I had, and continue to have, a clear vision for how I wanted my life to look or what I saw my life being like, but never a *career* dream. I’m really thankful to college for giving me a foundational interest in something like psychology, but at this point there is another dream. Nothing I’ve dreamt of doing for a “long time” necessarily, but it involves a part of my life that I’ve been within my whole life. I forgot my love for it, but I’ve rediscovered it. This new dream is vastly different from psychology, so I’m intimidated to go after it, but as I prepare to move back to Pittsburgh, it’s slowly coming together.” 

“When I say that I’ve never had a dream before, I am being sincere. I am of the mindset that when you have a dream, you should go after it, but I never thought that could apply to me. So in my case, just having the option to after a dream is really new to me. I feel very blessed to finally come upon a dream, feel ready to chase it, and begin it when I’m back in my home city. Like I said, I can’t say much about details just yet… but trust me, when this dream comes into my reality, everyone will know.”

 Q: Anything you wanna add just for fun for the closing of this interview?? Like leave your mark!!

“I don’t think I have much to add!”

“Her Campus is so kind to me, even after I graduated, the team still see’s me as an encouraging alumna. I love keeping up with all of you and I love that you all care to keep up with me! Thank you for taking an interest in interviewing me and checking in with me! I love you, Little. Hcxo!”

Closing by Taylor Russell:

Dani has been a big part of many peoples lives here at IUP. I wanted to end this article with a little message from me that I know others would agree with. Dani you are an inspiration to all. You are a leader. You are fearless. You are kind. And forever a person that has left a mark on my life and many others. I continuously ask myself “Is this what Dani would do?” I hope you know when you graduated IUP it left a hole that will never be replaced! With so much love thank you Dani for being you! We miss you! Love, your little! 

HERCAMPUS at IUP. Psychology & Criminology Major. Class of 2025. Active member in PGN. Book nerd! Creating a life, I love.