Vanessa: Vivacious, Valiant, Vincentian Leader

Name: Vanessa Dunn

Year: Senior

Major: Social work, minor in ASL/deaf studies

Hometown: Fairport, NY

Which clubs are you involved in on campus?

I am vice president of the social work student association. It’s mainly comprised of social work majors, of course. We do a lot of community service, which allows us to make connections between our major and the community. On campus, we work with younger students to help increase communication between younger and older undergrad students.

I am also a member of ASL club. We do a lot of events on and off campus, via guest speakers and visits from St. Mary’s School of the Deaf.  I also played prop for the women’s club rugby team, and volunteer through the St. Vincent de Paul’s Society whenever I can.

We’ve heard a lot about things you do for charity out of school as well. Can you tell us about one of your favorite experiences?

My absolute favorite experience was Shave to Save, which was inspired by when a senior from my high school passed away last January. I was able to see the impact one person made on a community and wanted to do something in honor of him. There were so many positives that I couldn’t find a negative. I ended up raising a little over $3,700 in one week. I met so many people and learned so many amazing stories. I had no clue how many people are affected by cancer. I still think about the day of the event, because so much good can come out of something so simple as shaving my head. It’s all about the awareness of anyone can give back in the smallest of ways.

My mission continues through Cab for a Cause, where we provide a safe ride for students who have just spent a night out on the town. The ability to do something as simple as providing a safe ride for students is an easy way to raise a lot of money, while maintaining a safe environment for people in the community.  Back in October, the cheap fare attracted a lot of people, and we were able to donate those profits to benefit the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk.

How do you maintain a social life, academics and all of your extracurricular activities with everything going on your senior year?

I just do! I’ve always been one to not think so much about my future. I like to live in the moment, instead of stressing about what is happening next week or next month. I’ve always been social and busy, and I grew up with my parents being the same way. When you have to get things done, you end up just being yourself and figuring out the people who are most important to be with.

What has been your most memorable experience at Niagara University?

Aside from Shave to Save, I did two spring break BASIC trips. We went to St. Louis my sophomore year, and Greensborough junior year. We volunteered at soup kitchens, food pantries, a church and an after school program, all of which provided me with many memories. I have always been strong in my faith, and this allowed me the pleasure of seeing people being spiritual together; seeing the amazing way God works in the world. This helps me with social work in the community, because there’s nothing better than eye-opening experiences.

What are your words of wisdom for current NU students?

Do everything you can. When you start freshman year, parents say “It’s going to be the best four years of your life.” There were some good days, some bad months, but they all make you who you are. Try new things and begin finding yourself and who you are because if you don’t step out of your comfort zone, how can you improve? Always give whatever the opportunity is a chance. Don’t give up too easily.

Do you have advice for prospective NU freshmen?

In general, one thing I did before I decided on Niagara was make sure I got a first-hand experience through a current student. I wanted to know what NU had to offer. A small school attracted me. There’s so much that can be offered to students. You can see all the events and clubs that go on, people are friendly, and you know everyone in Gally and can say hi. It’s the size, the beautiful location, and the welcoming community. I’ve always been a devout Catholic, and this atmosphere is perfect. Everything connects to feel like home. And honestly, who doesn’t like the color purple?

What are your plans once you graduate?

Luckily, I haven’t had to stress about jobs yet since I did my undergrad in social work, and MSW accelerated program can provide me with great opportunities. I’ve filled out three grad school applications so far. After one more year of school, I’ll join the working world.

How will you continue to live out the Vincentian mission?

I have a bucket list of just making a difference, giving back to people one person at a time. I’d like to work in the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps. I’ve applied to schools where there is a high need for social work involvement. My desire is to work with a high-need population. Volunteering is a part of who I am and who I always want to be. I’d like to start my own non-profit someday for any sort of cause. Working with those who are the most vulnerable will allow me to make this world a better place. I think St. Vincent would like that.