Student credits donor support for allowing him to pursue his passions

Dan Portanova

Dan Portanova

Within the past couple of months, Brock alumni received a package in the mail from the Annual Fund. The package included a letter from Dan Portanova, a science-turned-music student. Portanova is one of Brock’s “Both Sides of the Brain” profile images. Below, he shares his “other side of the brain” story and how he feels donor support has helped him pursue his passions.


Opportunities and options have been an integral part of my Brock experience. Of all of the universities to which I applied, Brock was the only one that guaranteed and encouraged me to combine my twin passions of music and health science.

I began my post-secondary academic career as a science student in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences. For two years, I pursued a medical career. I excelled at my studies and joined sports teams and extracurricular clubs with a health focus. I enrolled in Brock’s Med Plus program to broaden my understanding of the health field. The Bronze Leadership course for training in interpersonal relationships gave me relevant skills as a residence don. Job-shadowing a pharmacist and a surgeon provided great practical insights. I volunteered three hours a week assisting a physiotherapist at a local retirement home.

To further enhance my knowledge of the world, I travelled to New Orleans with other Brock students during Reading Week in 2009 to take part in a Habitat for Humanity build. This immensely satisfying opportunity encouraged me to seek out other international volunteer work.

But something was still missing. Music had always played a major role in my life, and though I played clarinet and French horn in the University Wind Ensemble and added trumpet to those two instruments in the community youth orchestra, it wasn’t enough.

With a deep breath and the encouragement of my parents, I changed my academic major to music from medicine. It’s a decision I’ve never regretted.

Shifting my academic focus came with a financial cost, starting with additional tuition payments for four more years. There were also fees associated with music scores, instrument upgrades and repairs, and practice times.

If it hadn’t been for the generous support of scholarship, bursary and award donors, my path would have been much more financially difficult. I don’t think that donors realize the powerful and positive impact they make on the lives of students. Their contributions to bright and deserving students allow us to pursue our passions and our educational goals.

Student awards, part of the focus of the Campaign for a Bold New Brock, are not the only donations that contribute to our academic careers. The campaign has many initiatives, including the creation of state-of-the-art facilities for students, faculty and research.

You might wonder how buildings can change lives or transform communities. The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, to be built in downtown St. Catharines, will link student creativity with the community, create opportunities in the cultural sector and help to revitalize the economy. The Cairns Family Health and Bioscience Research Complex that’s rising on the main campus will change lives by advancing knowledge in biochemistry, green science, plant pathology and human health. These two projects will contribute greatly to the experience of future Brock students and to the communities that they’ll serve and lead.

My future includes combining my interests in music and science. I’ve completed three years of my program, and after I finish a one-year exchange next year with the University of North Carolina (Greensboro) to study in the BioMusic program, I’ll return to Brock to complete my degree. A career in music therapy is one of my options.

With donor support, I and other students have been able to move from “what if” to “what will be.” Donors have given us abundant opportunities and a means to thrive scholastically and personally. I invite you to become part of our exciting academic journeys and our futures.

If you have yet to make your gift to the Brock’s Annual Fund, please consider doing so now. Visit to donate online.

Read more stories in: Alumni, Capital Campaign
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