with Dan Hickey ’04 | Director of Communications
Danielle has not stopped moving since walking across the Swanson Gymnasium stage in 2016. She attended American University, where she majored in American Studies with a double minor in Journalism and Political Science. In her time at AU she was the Advocacy and Communications Lead for the Center for Advocacy and Student Equity, the social media manager for the Black Student Union, the Director of Outreach and Communications for the Kennedy Political Union, and the founder of Black Women OWN the Conversation, among other things. She is currently a Communications Associate for the American Constitution Society, a freelance reporter for Def Pen, and the owner of Career Toolkits by Dee.
Where do you still see Stony Brook showing up in your life?
It’s everywhere for me. I implement Character Before Career every day in my business as well as my daily values. Stony Brook shows up most often in my faith because it’s where my relationship with God was molded. In my junior year at American, I actually started a Bible study group because I was missing the spiritual community I had at Stony Brook, specifically through Driven. I just couldn’t find that anywhere, so I built a space for myself that was grounded in what I had at Stony Brook. Two of my SBS classmates–Khendrick Beausoleil (Georgetown University) ’16 and Kimberly Cataudella ’16 (American University)–joined the group, which gave me such a sense of home.
Who were the teachers that inspired you, helped you grow, challenged you?
Mrs. Linzee. She instilled in me a love of English and storytelling. Everyone in her class was given a voice to share their stories. She brought every book to life. I wanted to do that in my life, and my passion for journalism began there. I always loved words and communicating, but I learned the foundations and techniques I needed to be a good writer at Stony Brook. I learned the structure that put my thoughts into order from my English teachers. My first step into journalism was writing for Paw Prints, a student publication. It was so powerful seeing words printed. I still have all of the magazines!
Mr. Jeffrey is another teacher that stands out. I never thought I would be the yearbook editor, but he was so passionate about photography and its technical nuances, and it inspired me. He was hard! [laughter] But he instilled a drive in me as a result. And you, Mr. Hickey! You were one of the first people I met. We had so much fun in English, and I was always comfortable just being me in your class.
All of my teachers inspired me, believed in me, and spiritually poured into me.
How did your time at SBS grow or challenge your understanding of the world and your place in it?
My identity was safe at SBS. I was taught that every community has a voice, every community matters. That was so clear during the International Festival, which is one of my favorite memories. Different backgrounds, cultures, histories, foods, and clothes were all celebrated. I felt so embraced and uplifted being able to share my Haitian and Jamaican backgrounds. I go back to that feeling of safety I had, and want to create that for other people. My whole career to this point has been driven by my passion for amplifying marginalized communities.
You have experience working in the social media space. What is your assessment of the current state of social media?
Social media has become very polarized and politicized. That has warped our storytelling. In my work, I try to convey truth, regardless of my opinion. “Clout culture” and “cancel culture” has made that more difficult.
What can Brookers do to bring more constructive discourse into this space?
The way we communicate always needs to come from a genuine place. Consider your audience. Value truth.
Where is Character Before Career important in your work with the American Constitution Society?
SBS is an amazing institution. It taught me how to be a good person and inspire others to be the same. My work can be polarizing, but I learned how to avoid being combative and argumentative and instead find the good in others and seek common ground.
My faith has also been important in my work. SBS Chapel was transformational for me. It’s where I learned to be in love with my faith. It also taught me to think about how to handle different situations, to show grace, empathy, and understanding.
You also started a business in 2021–Career Toolkits by Dee. Where did you see a need, and how did you respond to it?
I was very impacted by the pandemic. It tested me in many areas, including my faith. I had to look at myself and consider how to use my skills to help others. I could not find work, like many other people. I had to trust God with my plans. I wanted to provide for myself and help others provide for themselves. So, I made a flier advertising $10 resumes. I met with 25 people that same week. To this point, I’ve helped over 500 people, 95% of whom landed interviews or jobs. I love helping everyone, but I get satisfaction from lifting up those from marginalized and underrepresented communities, and I had the privilege of participating in the 2022 Black Girls in Media Conference.
You’re a communications associate, a freelance journalist, and small business owner–lots of irons currently in the fire. What do you hope to be doing 10 years from now?
I would love to be on a sports broadcasting platform like ESPN. I have a passion for seeing athletes better connected with business owners, and I want to provide a space for athletes to be more than just athletes.
Anything else you’d like to say to our fellow Brookers?
Shout out to the class of 2016! We’ve done a phenomenal job of keeping up with and encouraging each other. We’re now in different states and different countries, but it all started at Stony Brook. I wouldn’t be where I am without the friendships I’ve had and lessons I’ve learned through them.