Jacki Rizzo ’70, set out to be a Renaissance woman. As a supervisory customs and border protection officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), she sees several similarities between her work and the bachelor’s degree she received in theatre arts (scenic design) from Rosary Hill College (now Daemen College).
In her role with DHS, Rizzo tapped into her skills as a theatre major to work with actors for a training course she developed for officers as a way to help them identify impostors. Today, the course continues to be used by DHS, as well as the Department of State and consulate offices worldwide. Beyond this, she has found her research, analysis and discovery abilities to be useful on the job.
“The courses today at Daemen may be different but the goal is still the same,” said Rizzo, who last summer organized a reunion with her fellow theatre arts graduates. “Daemen mentors, nurtures and allows each student to develop into the successful person they are meant to be and to contribute and give back to society in their own unique way.”
After graduating from Daemen, Rizzo attended Wayne State University, where she studied technical theatre for a master of fine arts degree. She considers herself a late bloomer as she started her professional career in 1985 following years of being a stay-at home mom. Moving several times with her family from 1970-87, they eventually settled in Arlington, Va., where they enjoy the small-town life Rizzo grew up with in Williamsville.
Reflecting on her professional life, Rizzo believes her career with the federal government has fulfilled her “civic responsibility in a moral and ethical manner, using the critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills Rosary Hill taught me. The college is the reason I’ve been successful in my adult life both personally and professionally.
Rizzo’s work with homeland security has been recognized with a DHS Secretary’s Award and two CBP Commissioners Awards. In addition, she has received a Thanks Badge and Thanks Badge II from the Girls Scouts of the USA in honor of her 45 years as a volunteer member and adult educator.
“I may not have had the career I anticipated when I graduated but it has been very rewarding. As I like to say, enjoy the adventure, it’s never ending and always evolving,” said Rizzo.
Jacki currently serves on the Daemen College/Rosary Hill Alumni Association’s National Board of Governors as the Chapter Coordinator and Chair of the Nominating Committee.