My Nova Story

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North Carolina Alumni Make LEVEL’s First Service Trip Possible

Last month, 20 Villanova students traveled to North Carolina for a weeklong service break experience, volunteering at Rocky Creek Ranch in Statesville, NC and Triple Play Farms in Davidson, NC. While such service trips are a popular and often life-changing experience for students at Villanova, this one was the first of its kind: Participants were members of LEVEL, a student group that unites Villanovans of various abilities and disabilities to change the way ability is perceived.

“The break trip was a great event for the Office of Disability Services (ODS). It further enhanced the opportunities and experiences available for students living with disabilities, which is a huge part of the reason the office exists,” says Stephen McWilliams, MFA, PhD, Director of Disability Services.

Volunteering at the ranches, which provide equine therapy and other mental health services, the LEVEL students learned about horse therapy, painted benches, constructed jumps for the horses, created braille boards, built fences and completed other projects to support the ranches’ missions. In doing so, the students grew individually and as a team, challenged their own assumptions about disabilities.   

“This was a great step for the Office of Disability Services and LEVEL to work with our colleagues in Campus Ministry to shape and facilitate an accessible service break trip. It took our group to the next level as we continue to provide a meaningful, inclusive college experience,” says Gregory Hannah, Assistant Director of Disability Services.  

The trip took years of planning and months of coordination—and Villanova alumni were eager to lend a hand.

The students needed a service site that would be fully accessible and provide mission-based activities that could engage the entire group. Longtime volunteer and former Villanova University Alumni Association (VUAA) President Robert Byrnes ’76 recognized an opportunity and connected ODS with his wife, Tracy, who works at both Rocky Creek Ranch and Triple Play Farm as a PATH, Intl. Certified Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning, as well as a Therapeutic Riding Instructor. She and the horses at the facilities work daily, alongside a licensed therapist, to help veterans and people struggling from anxiety, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, ADHD and more.

“It was an honor to host the LEVEL students at Rocky Creek and Triple Play Farm. In our industry, we are constantly working to rid the stigma of disabilities and mental health, and this group nails it every day,” Byrnes says. “Their passion for their cause, and each other, is infectious. All the students that visited are incredibly kind, vulnerable, thoughtful and motivated. We look forward to planning another year and building on what we have started.”

VUAA Board Member and Villanova Club of Charlotte President Brian Muscarella ’80 also shared the desire to help. Muscarella, who is paralyzed, toured the facilities and worked with Byrnes and ODS to make sure the activities and goals planned for the trip would meet accessibility needs.   

As planning continued, it became apparent that there would be significant costs associated with the trip, including travel in fully accessible vans. So, LEVEL students turned to Villanova Crowdfunding, an initiative offered through the Annual Fund that helps students launch crowdfunding sites to support special projects. Within a matter of weeks, LEVEL raised $26,000—surpassing its $20,000 goal for the trip. Muscarella and several other alumni fueled the effort by generously offering to match donations. More than 140 alumni, parents and friends made a gift.

“Villanova alumni, parents, relatives, friends, neighbors and strangers took to this campaign and really made our vision a reality,” Hannah says.
The funds raised not only cover the cost of the trip, but also provide resources to support LEVEL’s ongoing programs and initiatives.

As the students embarked on the journey to North Carolina, they launched a blog to chronicle all they would accomplish. Following a beloved service break trip tradition, they ended each evening with reflections—many of which they published on the blog.

After the success of this trip, McWilliams and Hannah hope to make the LEVEL service break experience a new tradition. “Being able to provide our students the chance to support other communities beyond our campus and spread our mission—it’s what this group will continue to seek in the future,” Hannah says.



Andrew Lentz '08

Andrew Lentz ’08 wants Villanova to be a household name across the country and in particular the DC metro area. When he first moved to DC, he didn't know anyone and was especially thankful to have a home away from home in the Villanova Club of Washington, DC.  “I feel a special obligation to those who come after me to provide the strongest possible network for the newcomer who took a chance and moved to a city where they were starting out from scratch.”

Says Lentz, “I've been continually impressed with the direction Villanova has been going for the past 10 years. I think Fr. Donohue has made enormous headway in building the university's brand and it shows in people's reactions when I tell them I went to Villanova. I'm very proud that we have become a standard bearer academically, athletically and spiritually for other universities in the country.”

Andrew has lived and worked in Washington, DC for almost 10 years. During that time, he held positions on Capitol Hill, a national political party and a cabinet agency of the federal government. Andrew earned a MA in Government and an MBA from Johns Hopkins University in 2016.

  • Bob Byrnes '76 VSB

    Bob Byrnes '76 VSB

    Since Bob graduated in 1976, his commitment to the University has been unwavering. He has volunteered thousands of hours to advancing Villanova: he founded two Regional Clubs, served as VUAA President, chaired the Annual Giving Campaign Committee, hosted numerous New Student Send-Off events and much more. Read more about Bob's alumni experience and why he gives back. read more

  • Recognized by Pope Francis

  • Nova DC Alumni Softball Squad

  • Shawn Jones '93 VSB

    Shawn Jones '93 VSB

    Shawn has stayed connected to the Villanova community and especially loves coming back to campus. This May, he'll return to campus for his 25th Reunion. Read more about Shawn and his family of Villanova "fanatics". read more

  • Palm Beach Club Leadership

    Palm Beach Club Leadership

    Dimitri Chimerakis ’08, Nannette Cassidy ’85 and Joe Groglio ’80 are co-presidents in the Villanova University Club of Palm Beach. The combined talents of this trio offer many opportunities to the club they serve. read more

  • Mindy ’92 and Mark ’94, Law ’99 Hacker

    Mindy ’92 and Mark ’94, Law ’99 Hacker

    Villanova holds a special place in the hearts of Mindy and Mark Hacker. The Hackers can’t imagine not being involved with Villanova. Villanova is part of the fabric of their family as Mindy and Mark met at Villanova, and were married at the Villanova Church. read more

  • Andrew Lentz '08

    Andrew Lentz '08

    Andrew Lentz wants Villanova to be a household name across the country and in particular the DC metro area. read more

  • Gwen Burlingame '12 VSB and Katy Flannery '12 CON

    Gwen Burlingame '12 VSB and Katy Flannery '12 CON

    The former college roommates believe ice cream should be enjoyed by all, even those who are lactose intolerant, like Flannery. read more

  • Bowstring Studios

    Bowstring Studios

    Sean Quinn '00 COE, '10 MBA and Enrique Mendoza '00 COE, '02 MS lived on the same floor in St. Monica Hall during their freshman year and in 2001, they founded their own production agency–Bowstring Studios. read more

  • Stephanie (Butler) Buxhoeveden '09 CON

    Stephanie (Butler) Buxhoeveden '09 CON

    Stephanie (Butler) Buxhoeveden ’09 BSN, RN, CCRN, MSCN is an inspirational example of how a person can take devastating news and turn it into a way to create change and instill hope in others. read more

  • Alyssa Collins '12 CLAS, '13 MS

    Alyssa Collins '12 CLAS, '13 MS

    Alyssa's defining Villanova moment didn't occur on campus, but instead in Belize on a service trip during her junior year. Now, Alyssa is passionate about giving back to the scholarship fund that made her service trip possible. read more

  • Kimberly and John Thacker ’84 VSB

    Kimberly and John Thacker ’84 VSB

    John Thacker is a Senior Managing Director and Founding Partner of Crestline Denali Capital, L.P., an alternatives investment management firm specializing in syndicated commercial loans and collateralized loan obligation funds. But John has enjoyed much success beyond his career in business. read more

  • Alfred S. Mannella ’58 VSB

    Alfred S. Mannella ’58 VSB

    Looking back on his time at Villanova from 1954 to 1958, Alfred Mannella fondly remembers Falvey Memorial Library. A Philadelphia native, Mannella enlisted in the US Navy after high school and became a 10-year veteran of the Naval Air Reserve. Enrolling at Villanova in 1954 as a “day-hop”, the Falvey Memorial Library soon became his study hall and his librarian was Rev. Daniel P. Falvey, OSA, PhD. read more

  • Meaghan Delaney ’12 VSB

    Meaghan Delaney ’12 VSB

    I am a legacy Villanova alumna. My father graduated from Villanova and my grandfather received his master’s degree from Villanova. Their involvement and philanthropy paved the way for me, and for the great experience I had at Villanova. The University is such a big part of our family and I am proud to join my father and grandfather in giving back to our alma mater. read more

  • Ron Cruse '77 CLAS

    Ron Cruse '77 CLAS

    “Give a man a fish you feed him for day, teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime.” Ron Cruse recalls his parents sharing this expression many times as he was growing up. “From a very young age, my parents talked to me about the importance of social responsibility and of the personal fulfillment found in helping, within the means of one's own time and financial capability, to pave a path of greater opportunity for succeeding generations.” read more

  • John and Susan Riley P'19

    John and Susan Riley P'19

    Villanova parents John and Susan Riley are igniting change through their support of the University. The current CFO of PepsiCo North American Nutrition, John is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School. Susan is a graduate of the University of California and a dedicated mother, fundraiser and community education volunteer. read more

  • John Charles (JC) Lamb '11 CLAS, '14 MA

    John Charles (JC) Lamb '11 CLAS, '14 MA

    Since I made my first gift in 2011 through the Senior Class Gift program, and as I continue to give back as a member of the Young Alumni Circle, I’ve witnessed how much of a difference donor support has on current students. read more

  • Abe and Zarina Badani P '09, '12

    Abe and Zarina Badani P '09, '12

    Abe and Zarina Badani joined the Villanova community in 2005 when their son, Faisal '09 VSB, was a freshman. They joined the Parents Executive Committee that year and a few years later, their daughter, Jasmine '12 VSB, enrolled at Villanova. read more

  • Ellie Wright '16 CLAS

    Ellie Wright '16 CLAS

    Ellie credits her love of documentary filmmaking to Villanova's social justice documentary program—where she learned the ropes and became a two-time Student Academy Award Finalist. Ellie served as the President of the Senior Class Gift Committee because the alumni network supported her and she hopes to pay it forward. read more

  • James Restelli '08, VSB

    James Restelli '08, VSB

    Co President of the Chicago Chapter and Young Alumni Circle Member read more

  • F. Davis '77 VSB, P '10 and Lynda P '10 Camalier

    F. Davis '77 VSB, P '10 and Lynda P '10 Camalier

  • Frank Falcone '70 COE, '73 MS and Robert Pizzano '70 COE

    Frank Falcone '70 COE, '73 MS and Robert Pizzano '70 COE

    “Become a part of your gift,” Bob said. “Go on a service trip, or just come back to campus. It truly opens your eyes to the importance of supporting Villanova students.” read more

  • Gerry '73 VSB and Randee Curciarello

    Gerry '73 VSB and Randee Curciarello

    Gerry Curciarello graduated from Villanova with a BS in Economics in 1973. When reflecting about what made Villanova so important to him, Gerry recalls, “There wasn’t just one thing..." read more

  • Simit '00 and Ankita Shah

    Simit '00 and Ankita Shah

    Simit Shah graduated from Villanova University with a BS in Chemistry in 2000. read more

  • Jim Radecki Jr. P '14, '16

    Jim Radecki Jr. P '14, '16

    As soon as my daughter walked on to campus, it felt like home to her. I saw the development of my daughter almost instantly. read more

  • Tahir Qadeer ’10 VSB

    Tahir Qadeer ’10 VSB

    I work with two Villanova alumni, who are my mentors. So for me, it has an impact on me every day of my life. read more

  • Jeffrey Wagner ’07 CLAS

    Jeffrey Wagner ’07 CLAS

    My wife Lori and I proudly and consistently support Villanova University because of the firm foundation it has provided my career. read more

  • Jerry Quinn '87 VSB

    Jerry Quinn '87 VSB

    I am proud to be a Villanovan and continue the tradition of giving back to a place that provided so much to me when I needed it most. read more

  • Katie Kokol '05 VSB

    Katie Kokol '05 VSB

    I have an overwhelming sense of appreciation for the education I received, the opportunities I was offered and the life lessons I learned. My way of saying “thank you” is to pay it forward, and I feel fortunate to be able to do so. read more

  • Theresa Uminga ’92 CLAS

    Theresa Uminga ’92 CLAS

    For Theresa, the reason she gives back is simple: she wouldn’t have been able to attend Villanova without the financial aid she received, including scholarships and work-study funding. read more

  • Daniel E. Trucil '08 CLAS, '11 MA

    Daniel E. Trucil '08 CLAS, '11 MA

    I was lucky enough to enjoy two Villanova commencement weekends, and there's a single moment in each that will forever capture what the school community means to me. read more

  • Roxanne Chalifoux '15 CLAS

    Roxanne Chalifoux '15 CLAS

    I’m supporting the University Band with my Senior Class Gift because I have incredible memories while attending Villanova Athletics events. read more

  • Bridget Liberty Halligan '11 CLAS

    Bridget Liberty Halligan '11 CLAS

    I graduated with eight best friends, a handful of mentors and an education that taught me more than just my subject matter. read more

  • Caroline DiStefano '14 CLAS

    Caroline DiStefano '14 CLAS

    With the help of young alumni, I could only hope that Villanova’s strong tradition of community and fellowship across disciplines will continue to thrive. read more

  • Jo Anne '07 CLAS, '08 MA and Anthony '06 VSB Modarelli

    Jo Anne '07 CLAS, '08 MA and Anthony '06 VSB Modarelli

    We truly believe that there is an indefinable quality that makes someone uniquely Villanovan, and we feel honored to have had the opportunity to go here. read more

  • Neil Scott '08 CLAS

    Neil Scott '08 CLAS

    Villanova is more than an academic institution. It's a catalyst for future success. . . read more

  • Linda Bellopede Brown '85 CLAS

    Linda Bellopede Brown '85 CLAS

    To continue the legacy for all future Villanovans. read more

  • Juliet and Alex ’86 VSB Martins

    Juliet and Alex ’86 VSB Martins

    Amid his success, Martins, a New Jersey native, and his wife, Juliet, have made Villanova University a priority. read more

  • Sara Parr '10 CLAS

    Sara Parr '10 CLAS

    I make designated gifts to Student Development because the programs they run - especially the Campus Activities Team - truly shaped my Villanova experience. read more

  • Caroline Packer '13 CLAS

    Caroline Packer '13 CLAS

    I was taught at a young age that to whom much is given, much is expected. read more

  • Anita and Fred Loveland P '12, '15

    Anita and Fred Loveland P '12, '15

    The minute we walked onto the Villanova University campus in the summer of 2006, we knew that it was a special place. read more