Working in a university, you are ever-aware of the cycle of people coming and going, and we in the admissions office feel it particularly keenly this summer as we prepare to say ‘so long’ to one of our own recruiters–Haley Denehy. If you did not work with Haley as your own admissions counselor, you may have seen her in an information session or just being a light around campus–never hesitating to offer help to others or go the extra mile.
Haley is a UMW class of 2021 graduate who is making career moves that are, well, magical.
I sat down with Haley to ask about what she learned from UMW and what’s next.
Emily: What made you choose UMW?
Haley: Honestly, my mom. I had toured 12 or 13 different schools and had refused to tour any more. My mom told me we were going to the mall, then promptly drove past the mall and went south for 30 more minutes.
When we got to campus, I pouted [on the walk] from the Bell Tower to Lee Hall and as soon as I walked into Lee, I knew it was my home. Now I work in the building I pouted in! It really was my home.
What did you study while you were here?
I studied Communications and Digital Studies. Think: public speaking and research combined with computer science and graphic design and digital art. What I take from it is how to speak publicly and also how to take that speaking knowledge and produce it in a different way.
Can you tell me a little about the most formative part of your experience as a student here?
I think it was when I had to make a decision about my advisor. I thought I wanted to do a digital studies focus, but after taking a couple of classes, I realized that wasn’t for me. I really needed to be with someone else. I switched advisors, which was hard but I learned a lot more and I was able to advocate for myself for the first time.
I learned about finding a voice for myself and standing up for what I needed at the time—roommates or friends–and saying, “This is what I’m feeling.”
That was something I struggled with my entire life, and this place taught me how to do that.
It’s hard for me to imagine you having a hard time doing that!
You have no idea. Freshman Haley would be terrified of post-graduation Haley.
I love that!
I don’t. I grew in a good way, though.
After graduation, you came to the admissions office officially—what was it about the job that drew you here?
I wanted to stay in Fredericksburg. I liked the area and wasn’t quite ready to leave yet. I wanted an opportunity to learn how to be on my own and pay for my own stuff before moving.
I love interacting with students. I thought it would be a good fit to share my UMW stories and my life.
I’m selfishly very sad you’re leaving, but I know there is something big and exciting on the horizon for you… can you tell me about that?
I am moving to Orlando where I will be doing the Disney College Program for the second time. I did it in the spring of 2019 as my internship credit for UMW. Now, I’m going back, not for internship credit, but for career goals. I want to work in marketing, communications or PR for Disney Parks and Resorts.
How do you think UMW specifically prepared you for your next steps at Disney?
UMW gave me the courage to know I can do that. Like I said, 16-year-old me would be terrified of post-grad me.
Growing in my speaking ability, my confidence in work, and not just public speaking, but the ability to speak with people– I know that I know what I’m doing. Let me tell you about this thing that I love.
Also, my professors consistently checked in on me. My senior year, I became president of Lambda Pi Eta. I took it over and was petrified of hosting our first meeting. I panicked in my apartment before the Zoom. I emailed Dr. Emily Crosby and said, “We have to reschedule! I don’t know what to do, I’m not prepared.”
She emailed me back and said, “Haley, take a breath, look at your notes. You can do this.”
Having people who trusted me and knew that I knew my stuff is a way that UMW has prepared me in life.
Looking back, what would you hope is your legacy at UMW?
Ha! I don’t know if I have a legacy!
There’s a pause where Haley, seated with me in the Admissions Welcome Center, looks around thoughtfully.
I hope that people love UMW as much as I do. This place is my home. I fell in love with the campus and the people. I hope they remember my love for the school.
Okay, I have to ask for a Disney quote to sum it all up.
“Adventure is out there.”