U-M senior says Notre Dame gave him confidence, open mind

David Pagnucco is heading into his senior year at the University of Michigan. When he arrived on the Ann Arbor campus after graduating from Notre Dame Prep in 2012, he thought he had a bead on a career path in the medical field. But after a freshman year studying in U-M’s pre-med program, he thought medicine might not be his cup of tea. So fast forward to today, and Pagnucco is zeroing in on a summer internship with Mercedes Benz Financial Services and a degree from Michigan in economics.

And he attributes his successful major switch to Notre Dame Prep. 

“I firmly believe that attending Notre Dame Prep helped me develop an open mind and not be afraid of trying something new,” Pagnucco said in a recent interview. “I had never thought about pursuing a career in business, but once I began to explore different business careers, I knew it was the best fit for me.”

He said it is extremely important to have an open mind in high school and college and explore different things. He was so sure that he wanted a career in medicine that he never explored other options. But his Notre Dame experience taught him that being open to change was not a bad thing.

“At Notre Dame Prep, it’s considered cool to join a club, be in the band, play sports, or act in the school play,” he said. “NDP is an extremely supportive and collaborative community that encourages students to have an open mind and try something different outside of expectations and their normal comfort zones. It is important to do well in school, but colleges and employers also look for students with diverse backgrounds and experiences in addition to academic success.”

IB classes set the stage
Pagnucco attributes his college success so far largely to his high school experience at NDP and specifically to the International Baccalaureate program. 

“As a high school sophomore, I decided to enroll in the IB program because I knew it would prepare me for the rigorous college curriculum,” he said. “I think that one of the most important skills I learned as an IB student was time management. I played varsity hockey and lacrosse at Notre Dame, and was on NDP’s student council for four years. So I needed to balance my schedule to ensure all my work was done on time. Now, at Michigan, those time-management skills come in real handy as I continue to skate on U-M’s club hockey team at least four times per week and act as treasurer for the team. I’m also involved with a college financial investments club.”

In addition to time management, Pagnucco thinks NDP and the IB program significantly developed his writing skills. He said his IB English and IB History classes along with the IB extended essay were heavily focused on composing organized, argumentative, and analytical writing. “Whenever a college professor tells a class we will have an essay-based exam or a paper due, most students usually display discontent about the assignment. But but not me. I enjoy the opportunity to write an essay for any class I have, and I’d much rather take an in-class essay exam than a multiple-choice exam. I attribute this to my classes at NDP.”

From medicine to Mercedes Benz
All throughout high school and even in his middle school years, Pagnucco planned on pursuing a career in the medical field. He said his passion for science and biology developed through his favorite high school class, IB Biology, with Jocelynn Yaroch as teacher. 

“I still vividly remember some of the most interesting days in the class where we would do everything from dissecting a heart to studying bacteria colonies in the nearby creek on school grounds,” he said. “I took my interest in science and planned on majoring in biology at the University of Michigan. During my freshman year, I worked as a student researcher in a medical lab conducting research on the development of artificial lungs as a bridge to human lung transplants. However, after my freshman year I reevaluated my interests. I looked back on my experiences through my pre-med classes, talking with medical students, medical research, and past hospital volunteer work, and decided that I no longer wanted to pursue a career in the medical field.”

So starting with his sophomore year, Pagnucco switched his major to economics in hopes of pursuing a career in the financial services industry. He said he is looking forward to his internship in accounting and finance with Mercedes-Benz his summer and said it will get him real close to the action in a real business environment. 

“I am extremely excited to begin this new journey, and I think my analytical skills, positivity, and teamwork will make me successful in this field.”

Caring and passionate
Pagnucco is quick to emphasize again how important his high school experience was to where he is now and where he plans to go in the future. 

“All of my teachers at NDP were extremely caring and passionate about their classes and students,” he said. “They wanted students to succeed and were always willing to help in any way. I remember my teachers always wanting students to be involved during class.”

For example, he said, take David Osiecki’s IB History class. “It was an extremely engaging class. We would have many in-class discussions that Mr. Osiecki would facilitate, but ultimately, he wanted the class to drive the conversation itself. I really enjoyed that.” 

Pagnucco also had a shout out for his counselor, Vlado Salic, for his above-and-beyond help and guidance with college preparation and search. “I think that more students need to take advantage of the resources Notre Dame Prep offers, especially the counseling department.”

And speaking of resources, Pagnucco, as a business and economics major, knows full well how critical it is for a private school to have the support of its community.

“As an alumnus, I believe it is extremely important to support NDP to ensure that future students will have the same influential and positive experiences that I had in high school,” he said. “My four years at Notre Dame were some of the most memorable years of my life, and I made lifelong best friends that I’m still in contact with on a daily basis at U-M and other universities. Giving back to the school that gave me the academic foundation for my future is a way to say thank you for helping me get to where I am today.”

Follow Notre Dame on Twitter at @NDPMA.

About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy

Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org.