Campus Colleagues: Anthony DeLaRosa

October 4, 2021

CECS Engineering Experiential Learning Assistant Director Tony DeLaRosa shares personal and professional stories that show the importance of encouragement, the role of recognition (he’s co-chair for the Chancellor's Staff Recognition Awards) and how life sometimes takes us full circle.

CECS Experiential Learning Assistant Director Tony DeLaRosa with his family.
CECS Experiential Learning Assistant Director Tony DeLaRosa with his family.
CECS Engineering Experiential Learning Assistant Director Tony DeLaRosa, second from left, and his family. Photo courtesy/Tony DeLaRosa

Anthony “Tony” DeLaRosa's career is centered around experiential learning experiences. Talking with him, you can easily see why he’s the right person for his College of Engineering and Computer Science mentoring role.

A first-generation college student and the CECS Engineering Experiential Learning assistant director, DeLaRosa connects students with co-ops, internships and job opportunities. He worked multiple jobs to support himself through his undergrad and earned a graduate degree while working full time.  He credits his life experiences,  and lessons instilled from others, as motivators.

He’s worked on campus since 2001. It’s long enough where he’s seen former students reach their intended goals and beyond. He’s made good friends. And he’s also seen how fast kids grow up. DeLaRosa’s daughter is in middle school and two sons are students on campus. The younger one is a freshman who was recruited for the Lacrosse team. And, coincidentally, the Lacrosse team's coach was one of DeLaRosa’s students in the early 2000s.

“The Lacrosse Head Coach Jason Watts, an engineering alum, recognized my son’s last name and shared with him that I helped him get his first internship as an undergraduate in CECS. It’s amazing to learn about the impressions you leave on young folks that are unbeknownst to you,” DeLaRosa said. “I’m lucky to have the opportunity to work in a place where people want to make connections like this. You see and hear about success stories. It’s motivating and makes me very proud to work here.” 

DeLaRosa, who is co-chair for the Chancellor's Staff Recognition Awards, shares personal and professional stories that show the importance of encouragement, the role of recognition and how life sometimes takes us full circle.

Listen and learn from the people who encourage you.

“Depending on the season, my parents and their families traveled from Washington to Michigan and everywhere in between. They were migrant workers, worked hard and traveled for opportunities. Everyone in the family was close. There were lots of aunts and uncles to look out for you and the elders in my family always pulled together. But my parents didn’t get to focus on their education because they moved around so much. When I was 3, they settled in a rural town in the thumb of Michigan because they wanted their children to grow up with a bit more physical stability. They stressed the importance of formal education since they didn’t get to finish school.

When I think of a first-generation student, I am literally the mold. My parents were very supportive of my education and proud when I went to college, but they couldn’t guide me through it. I found advisers and mentors who helped me — they made such an impact on my life that it made me want to do the same for others. Even when they couldn’t directly guide me, my parents’ influence was still there and always has been a part of my journey. Their support, strong work ethic and family-first focus helped me get to where I am today.”

Experience and time often bring perspective.

CECS staff member Tony DeLaRosa and his wife
CECS staff member Tony DeLaRosa and his wife
Tony DeLaRosa with his wife Wendy

“When I was in college, I worked as much as I could to supplement my education. I worked at UPS during the day and the Palace of Auburn Hills doing concessions in the evening. It was so sad to see the Palace torn down last year. It’s now just a sign on I-75. There was so much history for me there from the Bad Boys era winning championships, concerts and wonderful people I met along the way.  The Palace even introduced me to my wife of 24 years this month. During those years, I met a lot of people who helped and guided me and kept me on track to reach my goals to graduate and start my professional career. Sometimes it takes time and some distance to help you see that you’ve experienced something extraordinary."

It’s important to recognize people who do good things.

“People are who really make places great. It’s the family at home. The teachers at school. The friends at work. I think it’s important to thank and recognize the people who are really doing a good job to make life better, especially after the last 18 months. We all simultaneously had an ugly experience; something none of us have experienced before. Many of us lost someone or know someone who did. We tried new things, had a steep learning curve and worked hard to hold it together and do the best for our students and each other. Some of us are more modest than others, but we all appreciate recognition.

I’m really grateful to Chancellor Grasso for his encouragement during the pandemic and giving us an opportunity to recognize our colleagues. The Chancellor’s Staff Recognition Awards will take place on Nov. 19. I’m co-chair of the Chancellor's Staff Recognition committee. We really want to hear about  staff who you’ve seen go above and beyond to advance our mission and nominations are open through 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 11. I know there are so many deserving people at UM-Dearborn who have put in extra effort and we want to shine a light on some of the excellent work that’s been done.”

Sometimes life comes full circle.

I’ve had some great experiences because I’ve explored beyond my comfort zone. I had opportunities to learn new things and experience people of many cultures. But sometimes life can bring you back to where you started — and those experiences you’ve had give you a new perspective. Growing up in a small town,I wanted to live somewhere bigger. Anywhere bigger, really. It was small. We had to drive 25 miles to the nearest McDonald’s.  Now I find myself missing it.  Mom still lives in the house I was raised in. My youngest brother lives in town too. After missing all those holidays because of the pandemic, it would be nice to have a home that’s close to them. My wife and I recently started looking for a second place near my hometown, but the housing market isn’t cooperating with us. So it may have to wait. 

I enjoy living in metro Detroit. I wouldn’t change my decisions that brought me to where I am today. But it’s funny that the things that made me want to leave my small town is what’s drawing me back in. Hardly any traffic. Everyone knew each other. It was really quiet. As a kid, that was a bit boring. As an adult, it sounds nice. My parents were right on so many things. They may have been right on this one too.”

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