Down but Never Out: Alumnus Shares his Transformational College Experience with the Next Generation

Dante DiBattista ’17 nearly failed out of Widener his first year. But a strong campus support system, hard work, and time for self-discovery helped him find his path.

Dante DiBattista stands in front of a powerpoint screen speaking to a room of Widener students
Dante DiBattista
Class of 2017
Bachelor's in Psychology
  • College of Arts & Sciences
Career: Speaker & Leadership Consultant

Dante DiBattista had a rough start to his academic journey at Widener.

He wanted to study engineering but struggled in his classes. By second semester of his freshman year, his future in an engineering program – let alone at Widener in general – was bleak.

“I was on academic probation,” Dante recalls. “I felt like giving up but I knew if I did, I would be stuck. That was not an option. Plus, I really did love Widener. I had a great community of friends. I wanted to stay and I wanted to finish.”

A pivotal meeting with Amy Yarlett, director of advising and retention systems, changed everything.

Dante spent his second year at Widener discovering himself and his interests.

“I took ‘intro to everything,’” he jokes, and found a passion for psychology. Through his newfound love, hard work, and a strong support system, Dante turned his academic fortunes around and spent four semesters on the Dean’s List.

Along the way, he developed and honed his leadership skills through extracurricular activities and through Widener’s Leadership Institute. 

Dante graduated Widener in 2017, went on to earn his master’s in organizational leadership from Johns Hopkins University, and now serves as a director of cooperative training for Berkeley Electric Cooperative in South Carolina. 

But that’s not where the story ends.

Dante began sharing his academic journey on social media, and a Widener staff member asked him to speak to Fraternity and Sorority Life members. That opportunity sent Dante down a new path – one of speaker and leadership consultant. 

“It’s a side project but one that I’m passionate about,” he said.

Today, he travels the globe speaking to students, companies, and other groups, and hosts a podcast called The Pursuit of Self-Actualization, discussing his journey. Dante recently returned to his roots, running a three-part workshop for Widener students called the Transformational College Experience.

I attribute much of what has happened to me to Widener. — Dante DiBattista '17

Support System

From nearly failing out of college to earning academic accolades took a lot of hard work and support. Dante attributes much of his success to the strong network of help he had at Widener, particularly from Karen Daly, associate director of student success. Dante received academic coaching, tutoring, help with time management, and more. “I signed up for any service offered,” he recalls. “I had to learn something from this and grow from this.”

Leadership Development

Dante honed his leadership skills through his fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega, and through Widener’s Leadership Institute, where his passion for leadership truly flourished. He developed his leadership philosophy – perceive no limits – which focuses on seeing beyond the perceived limits and restrictions people place on themselves. 

Leadership Education

When a fellow ATO brother and international student from Brazil, asked for Dante’s aid in starting a high school leadership program in his home country, Dante jumped at the chance to help build the curriculum. This led to his involvement in nonprofit education, and ultimately to him spending two years as a teacher in South Carolina through the Teach for America program.

Dante is still a teacher through his current role with Berkeley Electric Cooperative, where he runs customer service trainings and leadership workshops.

Back to Widener

When Dante graduated Widener he wrote a letter to his freshman self – an exercise in reflection – about his journey and the lessons he wished he knew back then. That letter, which Dante is working on expanding into a book, was the impetus for the Transformational College Experience series that he delivered to Widener students. Dante reached out to Yarlett to offer his speaking services, in part to help the next generation of students, but also to thank her for helping him turn his life around.

The series focused on mindset (reimagining what it means to fail); time management; and self-care. “I tell students to focus on being the best you possible,” said Dante. “Being there for yourself allows you to be there for more people.”

Career: Speaker & Leadership Consultant

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