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Catching Up with Dana Berce Serrano ’97

In 1997, Dana Berce ’97 wrote an essay in the UW–Madison yearbook titled “Days to Remember.” We had a chat with her to find out what she’s been up to lately, reminisce about campus memories, and get her take on how her perspectives have changed since she wrote that essay.

March 15, 2022

In 1997, Dana Berce ’97 wrote an essay in the UW–Madison yearbook titled “Days to Remember.” We had a chat with her to find out what she’s been up to lately, reminisce about campus memories, and get her take on how her perspectives have changed since she wrote that essay.

Nostalgic Flashback

  • Favorite ’90s band: R.E.M.
  • Favorite ’90s movie or TV show: Friends
  • Favorite campus-area hangout: Memorial Union
  • ’90s trend you’re happy to have left behind: Bodysuits under flannel shirts
  • ’90s trend you’d like to bring back: Velvet blazers
  • Favorite Madison concert: The Gufs at the Rathskeller
  • Best dorm horror story: Being a house fellow and choosing to wake up everyone on the floor in the middle of the night after a targeted vandalism incident. (Someone had set a giant bucket of soapy water against another house fellow’s door before knocking loudly.) After banging on every door, I made everyone sit in the floor den until someone confessed. The football players were not pleased, but we got our culprit! (And had no further incidents of note that year.)

Q: What accomplishments or projects are you most proud of working on in the last 25 years?

A: First of all, I have to digest that “25 years” bit. It seems like just yesterday that I was a college student, scrambling to register for classes using the touchtone system. Or maybe just a moment since I was in my 20s, but my joints tell a different truth. So much has happened professionally in 25 years. I started off with a job in advertising that I obtained out of on-campus interviews at the J-School. Then I returned to Milwaukee and was at another agency, before enrolling in law school.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Currently, I am at Circa, in Milwaukee, a SaaS business aimed at enabling our customers to find top talent, including in underrepresented groups, as well as assisting them with related compliance efforts. We have been shifting the focus of mandatory outreach from a check-the-box-compliance approach to one that truly drives results for our customers. It is a shift that we have seen the government making through time as well, in relation to OFCCP compliance specifically. It just so happens that the fever pitch society has reached regarding race relations and equality in our country aligns with our personal mission to make a difference. In the two years that I have been at Circa, our amazing team has set the intention to increase representation — it went from 6 percent PoC to 22 percent during that time. Our executive leadership team has been extremely driven to help create a sense of belonging and to advance some challenging dialogues internally. I am so grateful to be a part of this journey with Circa right now.

Q: Are there any courses or professors from the UW that have had a lasting influence on you?

A: There are several professors from the J-School that were quite memorable. Professor Baughman was such a bright guy who really emphasized curiosity and critical thinking. He also had a big heart and showed compassion when I had an issue with one of my semester papers, giving me grace. In advertising, the three-martini lunch was remembered often and fondly by one professor who had years of advertising experience and regaled us with many tales — unfortunately his name escapes my aging brain! I ended up with my first job in Chicago as a media buyer/planner because of his influence, and it was such a great opportunity.

Q: What’s your best memory from your time on campus? 

A: Homecoming was a special time of year on campus. Our sorority paired with a fraternity for many festivities and activities. I remember being especially proud of giant Bucky that I painted as a part of our sorority/fraternity float one year. 

Q: Any reflections you’d like to share from your essay written in the yearbook 25 years ago? For example, have you made it back to campus to revisit some of the memories you mention in your essay?

A: BADGER GAMES: My husband, Gregg H. Novack ’98, and I have season tickets to Badger football games and relish those game Saturdays. When I was first a student attending the games, I noticed the masses of older attendees — the non–college students. It made me wonder why they wanted to come hang out with all of us and what lives they had temporarily left behind. Now I know. They were, like me, fondly reflecting upon lost youth, and feeling fierce pride for their school.

DORMS: Having lived in the dorms all four years, first as a resident and then as a house fellow for two of the years, all the facility changes and improvements for the students are impressive and jarring. When I saw the “new Ogg,” I choked on the coffee I was slugging at the time. Air conditioning?? Sooo much fancier.

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