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Be the Difference

College of Education Award Recipients

YOUNG ALUMNA OF THE YEAR AWARD

HirchakDana Bellich Hirchak, Arts ’09
Chicago

Dana has dedicated the past 10 years of her career as a servant-leader at the Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School in Chicago helping some of the most vulnerable students in Illinois and throughout the country – those struggling with severe mental health challenges.

Students at the Orthogenic School often arrive because previous treatment and experiences within special education have resulted in either limited or unsustainable progress. Dana and her team are challenged to approach students in a different, well-rounded and therapeutic manner in order to create an environment that allows them to not only be successful in the classroom, but also to regulate their emotions and manage everyday life.

Such difficult work — the epitome of cura personalis — is not for everyone, but Dana finds it rewarding and energizing. In the future, she hopes to become more involved in organizations such as the National and State Associations of Private Special Education Centers, which help shape public policy and advocate for parents, students and programs. Dana also would like to serve as an advocate for families who may be unaware of their special educational rights.

In addition to serving students and their families, Dana prioritizes giving back to the greater Chicago community. She dedicates her time to the Rotary Club in leadership roles such as past president. She’s also a founding member of Rotary Club’s Cosmopolitan chapter in Chicago and currently serves as a member of the club’s Community Service Committee.

For Dana, attending Marquette may have seemed a foregone conclusion – her grandparents, mother, great-aunt and aunt are all alumni. However, Marquette also offered Dana the urban setting she sought along with a foundation of Jesuit ideals upon which she has built her career, helping vulnerable students realize their true potential.

Fun Facts:

Name someone (past or present) with whom you'd like to have dinner.
Janice K. Jackson (CEO of Chicago Public Schools)

Name a Marquette faculty or staff member who had an impact on you, and how.
“I specifically remember Dr. Clark, Dr. van den Kieboom, Dr. Chubbuck and Dr. Evans as particularly influential,” she says. “We were taught how to meet students where they are currently functioning, identify how they learn best and adapt our teaching styles and methods to meet the students’ needs. These practices provided a strong foundation to successfully work with a wide range of students, within general education or special education.”