Name: Mariagrazia Buttitta
Hometown: Bagheria, Sicily, Italy
Major: Communication Studies, Public and Mass Communication Specialization
Graduation Year: 2016
Organization Involvement: Phi Kappa Phi, Golden Key, and Certified Peer Educator. Also, I will become a Lamda Pi Eta honor society member this upcoming semester.
How did you first become interested in Communication Studies?
I think I was always interested on some level, whether I knew it or not. Growing up being different from others, I learned different ways to communicate. I come from a country with a low tolerance for those who are different, and I knew when I came to America I would pursue a field that allowed me to communicate with and help others. When I first came to the US, I enrolled at Bergen County Community College. While there, I entered a speech competition on a whim and actually ended up winning. It really solidified my passions and interests. I now love public speaking and have realized that this is my fit. After that initial competition, I was contacted for talks and panels related to mental health and sharing my story and it’s been evolving since then.
Tell us about some of your achievements here at TCNJ.
For me, honestly, a major achievement was being accepted into TCNJ and into the Department of Communication Studies. Having been told that I couldn’t do things so many times in my life, it was such a gratifying feeling to be accepted and be here, and thrive. It was, and continues to be, a really wonderful experience. Additionally, I was so proud to have been nominated for Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society. It’s a fantastic feeling when all your hard work pays off.
How have your personal challenges influenced you?
I went through much of my life not knowing what my diagnosis was. When I was 13 or 14, I came to the US, Chicago specifically, and received a diagnosis. However, it was when I was 15 that I received the correct diagnosis of Cone Dystrophy. This diagnosis and my struggle prior, has helped shaped me to who I am now. I want to educate people on disabilities and be a voice for others. The truth is, people are constantly blinded by what they see. My personal challenges have allowed me to truly appreciate the small things in life.
Who has been your greatest influence or supporter throughout your journey at TCNJ?
Of course my family and my amazing therapeutic dog Lucky, but also, many of the faculty and staff here at the College. Dr. Pollock is my advisor and he is so supportive and wonderful and always willing to listen and educate. Dr. D’Angelo, and Dr. Woodward are also fantastic, they treat me like everyone else, which is not always common. They teach great courses and give me the appropriate accommodations when necessary. I could not be more proud to be working with these intelligent doctors. Also, the Director of Disability Support Services, Meghan Sooy, Director of Disability Support Services, has been so incredible. Next, from the creative writing department the wonderful Lois Harrod and last, the staff from tutoring and counseling and psychological support services who have also been incredibly supportive.
You are one of the students with the highest GPA in the School. What’s your study routine?
I try not to leave things to the very end and avoid procrastination. I feel that slow and steady is the best routine for me. It’s not always easy!
What are your future plans?
I know I will pursue graduate school, at least for a master’s degree. I feel like I have so many options and my opportunities are quite broad. That’s still a year or two away, so I have some time to think about that some more! I am also currently writing my memoir and telling my story, I would like to have published and share with others who are facing similar challenges. I would also love to be an advocate and public speaker for those with mental illness and/or disabilities.
What advice do you have for other students majoring in Communication Studies?
Love what you do and do what you love. Find your passion and pursue it. That saying that it will never feel like a job if you are excited to wake up and do what you love is absolutely true.
What is your favorite TV show? Movie?
I love Friends! It’s absolutely my favorite. And, as cheesy as it is, I really love The Notebook.
What are your hobbies?
I love to hike, especially in North Jersey where I used to live. A favorite is Bear Mountain. Hiking, for me, is a wonderful time to feel connected to where I am and who I’m with. I love spending time with my friends, and hiking is the perfect way to do so.
If we opened your refrigerator right now, what would we see?
Lots of espresso! I am an Italian girl, after all. Other than that, lots of dairy, fruit and all the ingredients to make pasta, something I can’t do in my dorm room!
Who do people say your celebrity look-alike is?
Emily Deschanel, the actress from Bones, although I don’t see it.
If you could have any super power, what would it be?
You know, I don’t think I would want a super power. I’ve realized that it’s one’s weaknesses that truly make one strong. I wouldn’t have been able to be where I am today without the challenges that I have faced and I am grateful for the adversity that taught me to be stronger each day.