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New Face: Danielle Kowal

This “utility player” in the Academic Success Center strives to help student-athletes have the best possible college experience.

People  |  May 21, 2018  |  By Diane Russell
Portrait Danielle Kowal

Danielle Kowal, academic support specialist in the Academic Success Center. (Josh Hawkins/UNLV Creative Services)

Taking her dad’s advice to heart, Danielle Kowal seeks to do the best she can wherever life takes her. She is an academic support specialist for student-athlete academic services (SAAS) in the Academic Success Center.

Where did you grow up and what was that like?

I grew up in Carmel, California, and I am incredibly grateful I was able to live in such a beautiful place. Every time I go back I appreciate its simplicity and majestic beauty more. Because the weather doesn’t really get any colder than 50 or warmer than 75 we spent lots of time outdoors — at the beach or in the valley hiking. I definitely miss the beach the most.

What is your current job title and what are a few of your duties?

In this role, I coordinate our student-athlete tutoring program, help with advising a few freshman student-athletes, plan SAAS events, and assist our associate athletic director of SAAS with a variety of financial aid and policy/procedure tasks. They call me the “utility player.” When things come up, I tend to jump in wherever they need me.

What inspired you to get into your field?

As a student-athlete (I was a swimmer at Fresno State) I tried to be as involved as possible. My junior and senior years I had more leadership opportunities and that meant I was able to sit in on athletic department staff meetings and sit as the student-athlete representative on a few committees. I had a mentor in the department that convinced me to seek a graduate assistantship in the department and that year really sold me. I have always known that whatever field I went into, I wanted to help people. That has always been my passion. In this profession every day is different. You never know what is going to walk through your door, and in that I have found the ultimate platform to help student-athletes have the best experience possible.

Why UNLV?

I knew I was relocating to Las Vegas upon the completion of my master’s degree (at California State University, Fresno) last spring but really was uncertain about where I saw myself starting my professional career. Having been a student-athlete and then a graduate assistant in athletics, I knew I loved the environment, but opportunities can be rare. I spent a good amount of time looking at all of my options in town but when this position presented itself I knew I had to go for it.

Finish this sentence, "If I couldn't work in my current field, I would like to...”

Travel and do research.

Tell us about a time in your life when you have been daring.

Quite honestly, taking the leap of faith and going into a grad assistantship with the athletic department while I was pursuing a master’s in criminology was probably one of the most gutsy decisions I have made. It wasn’t going to be easy to explain to a potential employer.

Tell us about an object in your office that has significance.

There are a few pictures on my wall. Three of the pictures are of my college team and one is of myself and my husband. Those pictures are a constant reminder of the strength and kindness of the people around me. My team saw me through some of the hardest days and never lost their faith in me. They watched me fail endlessly and succeed occasionally, and their support was unwavering. The picture of my husband and me was taken on my favorite beach at home. He is my best friend and motivation every day, so I look over for a smile several times a day.

Pastimes or hobbies?

I still swim at least once a week and love a good book!

What books do you have on your bedside table?

I have the book Origins by Dan Brown on my bedside table at the moment. Great read so far!

Any tips for success?

“It’s not where you go, it’s what you do where you go.” My dad used to tell this to the high school seniors when they were beginning the college application process. At the time, it was far too cliché for me to appreciate in totality but now I think of it before just about anything I do. People tend to underestimate where they are, always looking for the next big thing. I truly believe that every day is a chance to do something you have never done before and any setback or challenge makes the journey that much more thrilling. You can do incredible things wherever or whenever, if you make the conscience effort do to so.