Inspiring the 10 Under 10
In 2022, the day10 executive committee created the 10 Under 10 recognition program. It’s the University of Dayton's chance to celebrate young alumni who exemplify UD’s unofficial motto — Learn. Lead. Serve.
We asked this inaugural class of 10 Under 10 honorees, "Who is one person that has had a profound impact on your life or your career?" Here is what they had to say:
Jill Bucaro ’11
Social work program manager, law office of the Montgomery County Public Defender
The person who has had the most profound impact on me, and who has been the biggest inspiration for my career is Bryan Stevenson, an attorney and social justice activist. Bryan wrote the book Just Mercy and is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. Working alongside the most marginalized individuals in our community can be exhausting and overwhelming. Every minute of my day is spent trying to advocate within systems that are intentionally underfunded and inherently oppressive, and the futures for the people I work with can seem utterly hopeless. Whenever I start to wonder if it is all worth it, or if what my team and I are doing even makes a difference, I remember the work that Bryan Stevenson does and has done for decades and am reminded that change and progress really is possible. He has a TED Talk that I have watched dozens of times, particularly when I am feeling overwhelmed and defeated. He encourages other leaders and activists to "keep your eye on the prize, hold on," and that phrase has become a mantra for me in my professional life when faced with opposition, inequality, frustration and burnout.
John Buerschen ’15
Pilot, U.S. Army
I’d say my oldest sister Emily Buerschen ’12. She was a senior when I was a freshman on campus. She significantly helped mentor me towards choosing my major, joining ROTC and applying for the University of Dayton Rescue Squad. Also, after losing our father during my senior year of high school, just a few months before starting at UD, it was always comforting to know that I had my big “sis” on campus to help us get through the loss of our father. It’s tough to imagine what my college experience would’ve looked like without having Emily at UD during that challenging time. My most memorable experience was being on a “ride-along” during an unforgettable Saturday night shift on Rescue Squad with her my freshman year. It was that night that I changed my major from pre-dent to pre-med and applied for Rescue Squad.
Te’Jal Cartwright ’14
Multimedia engagement manager, Canary Consulting; creator and host, What’s the Biz with TJ
My grandmother, Nana, has had a profound impact on me. She has always been supportive of me and my dream of being on television. I always wanted my own talk show or to be in movies (ideally with Michael B. Jordan or Brad Pitt as costars). Growing up, she would always ask about theater productions that I was a part of and she'd make sure that she was at every show. I would not have started my talk show series, “What’s the Biz with TJ,” without her support. Nana has watched every single episode of “What’s the Biz with TJ” on YouTube and will call me to talk about the parts that she really enjoyed. Our platform is expanding and it's been a lot of work, but her support inspires me to keep going even when things feel tough. I look to her because she's persevered through so much. She was born in the south and later relocated to Ohio with her husband and family. Growing up, racial tensions were at an all-time high, but her ability to reflect and be grateful for the good in her life is really inspiring. It reminds me to focus on God's blessings and the work that He has called me here to do. “What’s the Biz” is a huge part of my growth as a journalist/media personality and I wouldn't have had the courage to pursue my dreams if it wasn't for her reassurance.
Gerald Kierce ’13
VP and general manager, FiscalNote
I’ve been fortunate to have an incredible community of people that have supported me over the years — family members, friends, professors, colleagues and neighbors. Professionally, my company’s founder and CEO, Tim Hwang, has been an incredible source of wisdom, intellectual stimulation and career opportunity. The company he founded where I’ve worked in for nearly eight years, FiscalNote, is a leading global technology provider of legal, geopolitical, and policy data and insights with a mission to connect the world to their governments. Tim is an exceptional human being — he graduated in three years from Princeton University, deferred Harvard Business School, started FiscalNote at age 21 by securing a Seed financing round from entrepreneur Mark Cuban, was named Forbes’ 30 Under 30 at age 23, and is in the process of taking our company public this year on the NASDAQ stock exchange. Upon the completion of that transaction, Tim is set to become the youngest Asian American founder/CEO of a company traded on a major U.S. stock exchange. Beyond his public accolades, Tim is kind, thoughtful, empowering and inspiring. He has always believed in me and challenged me in ways that enable me to be my best self; to liberate my spirit, trust my instincts and have a bias for action. I had the pleasure of serving as his chief of staff for two years at a transformational period for our company’s history. Simply put; he pushes me to be a better professional and a better person every day. I’m proud and humbled to call him a friend.
Daniel McNicholas ’15
Literacy equity teacher, Wheeling (Illinois) Community Consolidated School District 21
My mom, Kris McCarthy McNicholas ’86, was the first Dayton Flyer that I ever knew, and naturally, she has had a profound impact on my life. It was due to her involvement with the University of Dayton and the Alumni Association that I first began to love UD as a child and eventually found myself applying to attend UD. Now, as an alumnus myself, I have realized that the way that my mom leads her life emulates "learn, lead and serve." Throughout my childhood, and to this day, my mom has always taken the lead in organizing the Philadelphia Alumni Community's annual Christmas off Campus event by finding local organizations that are in need of support. Witnessing her share her time, talent and treasure to create a family-friendly day of service for the Philadelphia Alumni Community has always been inspiring.
Kayla Mueller ’15
Senior creative strategist, Popular Pays
My dad, Eric Mueller, has had an immeasurable impact on my life. I’ve been able to witness his actions over the years and frequently look to him for professional advice. Not only is he extremely knowledgeable in a wide breadth of topics, but his professional interactions and high value on human relationships inspires me. I’ve learned how to authentically network, challenge myself and lead effectively because of him. I can only aspire to be half as loyal to people as he is. He places value on the most important things in life. He started his own company the year I was born, and he's instilled in me an entrepreneurial spirit and business mindset. Many of my values are rooted in who he is. I am who I am today because he is my dad.
Sarah Richard ’19
Marketing and community partnerships manager, Gem City Market
Kevin Hallinan, UD mechanical engineering professor and social changemaker, instilled in me the passion to utilize my technical skills to better my community. He taught me that engineering did not need to be a job title, but a way of thinking. His outlook and mantra that the engineering mindset can be applied to social systems where people over profit is considered pushed me to consider the social implications over simply efficiency and optimization. His mentorship gave me the confidence to explore avenues not only outside my major, but outside campus grounds that ultimately led me to find my dream life in the Dayton community. I am also happy to now call him a neighbor and friend just living a few blocks down the street.
Danielle Ruffolo ’19
Business growth team member, Kao Brands; founder and CEO, Handy Hats
My parents have been my role models since I was a little girl. They have supported me in every way possible — helping me with school work, cheering me on from the sidelines and encouraging me in times when I was discouraged. My parents were my first soccer coaches and teachers, and now in my professional career, they have become my business mentors and advisors (not to mention my logistics team, as they have helped me set up for countless Handy Hats events over the years). I love the Dayton Flyers’ basketball team, but my parents make-up the most incredible team I have ever witnessed. Their positive outlook on life, love, respect and care for one another is beautiful. The most inspiring part of their relationship is that faith and family are their two most important priorities. Even on their busiest days raising five kids, my parents always managed to make time for each of us, made us feel so special and loved, and reminded us to have faith over fear because the Lord is always with us. I am so grateful to be the daughter of Tina D'Epiro Ruffolo ’90 and Rick Ruffolo ’90 and aspire to be more like them every day. P.S. They met while they were students at UD. Go Flyers!
Destiny Watson ’20
Founder and CEO, You Matter 2
The one person that has had a profound impact on my life and career is my dad, Lawrence Watson. He was an entrepreneur and ran his own trucking company. He passed away when I was five, due to injuries sustained from police brutality. I believe his skills of entrepreneurship, determination and drive have been instilled in me. He inspires me every day to wake up, chase my dream and keep him at the center of my work. I've been able to honor him with a memorial scholarship in his name for high school seniors, walk in his footsteps of entrepreneurship and bring light and awareness to the injustices faced by Black people today.
Andrew Wong ’19
Assistant vice president of talent development and engagement, Synchrony
Thinking about all the incredible support and mentors that I have had in my life, Tracy Miller, lecturer and assistant department chair in management and marketing at UD, is one person who has greatly helped me become the person I am today. What stands out about Tracy is how she helped me to understand my own leadership potential in ways that I didn’t even see in myself. There are countless memories, but Tracy’s ability to share her own real-world experiences through her professional career made me understand the importance of always taking ownership and choosing to do the right thing. An experience that stands out was a management class focused on group dynamics and being able to freely think about finding creative team building events to engage others. The bonds formed inside and outside the classroom under her guidance shaped not only my time at UD, but how I continue to act and view the world today. While I was physically far away from home, Tracy was able to make her classroom feel as if it was my second home. I fondly remember her going out of her way to ensure that all of her students, including me, made positive choices and she served as my de-facto parent in Ohio. That level of care was beyond what I expected of any professor. Having someone believe in you at such a critical stage in life is something I will cherish forever and I am grateful that incredible professors like Tracy are part of the UD community.