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Danielle Colella LaPorta ’78

Danielle Colella LaPorta, right, with (from left) daughter Jessica, son Matthew, and husband Bill.

Since graduating from IUP in 1978, Danielle Colella LaPorta has enjoyed a successful career in the field of safety science but still finds time to represent IUP at recruitment events in her area. Her experiences as a student and now a parent provide a perspective with which many of her audiences can identify.

Danielle grew up in Washington Township, Gloucester County, New Jersey, the middle child of five in a nontraditional Italian Catholic family. She still lives there today with Bill, her husband of twenty-nine years. They have raised two children: Matthew, twenty-six, and Jessica, twenty-three.

Danielle was the first person from her family to attend college. At IUP, she started as a Biology/Pre-Medical Track major, but quickly realized that it wasn’t for her. She took the suggestion of an English professor and looked at Safety Sciences, which turned out to be a good fit. She has been practicing in that field ever since graduation—eleven years in the insurance industry, followed by more than twenty in the public sector helping to prevent worker injuries.

What she finds most rewarding is teaching industrial safety to adults at the Gloucester Institute of Technology, helping them to find the tools they need to make decisions in real-life situations. Danielle is a certified safety professional and was honored with an invitation to speak at the twenty-ninth annual Public Risk Management Association Conference in Anaheim, Calif.

Danielle recently answered questions about her days at IUP and her service to IUP since graduation.

You grew up in southern New Jersey. How did you hear about IUP?

My neighbor was getting her master’s in Music at IUP and had an apartment in town. I took a bus by myself to go to look at it. I liked it and was accepted, so I went.

It was a bit radical at the time—not only going to college, since I was the first child in my family to attend, but also choosing to leave home and go three hundred miles away.

Tell me a little bit about your time as a student.

I loved hanging out at Weyandt Hall playing backgammon with the graduate students and spending time at Interest House/Gordon Hall (the first co-ed dorm). I missed the freshman experience, but got to meet some amazing upperclassmen. My parents were not happy!

I also volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters and was involved with the Newman Center. I never missed a Mass there in four years.

You’ve been helping out with recruitment events around New Jersey for many years. What does that involve?

Basically, I attend college fairs so that IUP is represented among the universities that high school students and their parents get to hear about. I spend time answering their questions and encouraging them to look more closely at what IUP offers, to reach out to the specific departments their kids are interested in, etc.

Prior to raising my own children, IUP was the best four years of my life. It had a profound effect on me. So it’s a very easy sell.

What are some of the challenges?

I find that a lot of parents, particularly in this area, are afraid to let go of their kids. They’re afraid that they won’t come back. So I do my best to reassure them that they will come home. I did, after all, and I’m from this same community.

But I also pitch the excitement and possibility that college holds for their kids. I was raised to believe that I could be anything I wanted, and I try to convey that same message at the fairs. Their children can follow their dreams by going to college. I encourage parents to give them that opportunity.

About how much time do you donate?

Each fair is about two hours long, plus there is travel and set-up time. I try to do as many as I can, usually three to five in a year.

I also attend the annual IUP event on City Line Avenue in March and help out in any way that’s needed.

Why is it important for you to give back to IUP in this way?

I really believe in the importance of higher education and that there is something for everyone. And I believe that IUP is the right choice for so many kids.

IUP offers an outstanding quality of life at a very affordable price. You know, it’s funny—my younger sister, Stephanie, went to Penn State, and our mother likes to say that she got the brand- name education, but that I got the quality one.

What would you say to other alumni about your experiences?

It would be nice to get more recent graduates involved in college fairs and recruitment. Parents are reassured by meeting another parent, but students like to see younger faces.

Do you have a favorite moment or memory related to any of your service work?

I don’t have a single favorite moment. They’re all good.

Profile published on 12/8/09

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