Michael Donadio '15 majored in political science and minored in history at Union College. His favorite class was any course with Professor Brian Peterson or Professor Denis Brennan, and his favorite Union experience was studying abroad in Galway, Ireland. Originally from Guilderland, N.Y., -- where his high school mascot was also the Dutchmen – he now lives in Tampa, Fla. There, he is associate general counsel with the United Soccer League.
How did you find Union and why did you choose to attend?
Union was close to home and a place that felt like home from an early age. Initially, I attended Clarkson University with the thought that being away from home would make for a wonderful college experience. Although I enjoyed my time at Clarkson, I knew that Union was the place for me, and it was the best decision I have ever made when I finally decided to transfer!
Who were your mentors and how important was their guidance?
My uncle, Antonio Civitella, is the president and CEO of Transfinder in Schenectady. From a young age, my uncle as well as my grandfather, Raffaele, instilled the importance of obtaining an education and always trying to learn something new. My family immigrated to the United States from Italy and always mentioned how the “American Dream” would provide our family with an opportunity unlike anything they had back home. The constant support I received from my family allowed me to thrive at Union, knowing I always had them cheering me on.
Students often feel pressure to do well in college. Did you feel any particular pressure?
I certainly felt that pressure from my family as I did not want to let them down. I know the sacrifices they made in order for me to attend Union and I did not want to disappoint them. I think this type of pressure is common among many first-generation college students during their college experience.
Where did you feel most seen on campus? Most invisible?
I always felt welcomed at Union and that was one of the key reasons why I chose to attend. The tight-knit community at Union made me feel like I belonged, which for a first-generation college student, is something that was extremely important – whether it was in the classroom, on the tennis court or at various other spots on campus.
Have you provided any mentorship yourself, academically or otherwise?
This is something that is extremely important to me as I had so many people that mentored me during my time in college. I have made it a goal to mentor/reach out to at least one first-generation student each year and this is something I wish to continue for many years to come. I think it is a debt I owe to future first-generation college students. I hope that after they have a successful experience at Union, they will go on and mentor future students as well.
What made you click? Where did you find your niche? What experience made you feel like you belonged at Union?
Being a member of the tennis team was certainly an important aspect. Our team had players from different parts of the country and from various backgrounds. It created an environment where everyone felt part of the team and the Union community. The student-athlete experience is something that I would highly recommend to any potential students if they are debating whether to participate in collegiate athletics.
Do you feel your Union experience differed from that of your peers? If so, how?
My experience certainly differed in some respects, although I was able to enjoy the traditional college experience. I was also fairly close to home and could assist with family matters when needed. This is something that many first-generation students often face, and Union College provided the best of both worlds for me (being close to home also allowed me to bring homemade Italian food to my friends, which was certainly an added bonus).
Were there any particular programs or people at Union who really made a difference to you, either academically or personally?
I was always impressed with how welcoming all the professors were during my time at Union. Although this is a strength many liberal arts colleges have, I found that the professors I had were truly genuine and willing to provide any advice/insight they had regarding career goals. Doors were always open and professors were willing to go out of their way to assist. This really created a sense of community around campus and is something that I truly believe helped me excel during my time at Union.