From the very start, Emanuel Di Stasio’s experience of Loyola Marymount University has been one surprise after another. Coming to Los Angeles from Naples, Italy, where he grew up, he initially believed he would bike to classes from his uncle’s home in North Hollywood. After landing at LAX he realized the folly of that idea. So, Emanuel moved into the dorms where he served as a resident advisor from his sophomore year into his senior year.
Another surprise was how different LMU was from the picture in his head of college life in America that was shaped by movies. His friends back home still believe it’s “all about partying, drinking, and wearing Hawaiian shirts.”
“I was very naïve and with very different expectations of what my university experience was going to be,” said the 22-year-old mechanical engineering senior in late April. “It was a very life-changing experience from that first day of classes all the way through next week’s graduation.”
Surprised that he could excel at academics and sports since they’re separate pursuits at the university level in many other countries. Being able to pursue both seriously at LMU made that choice a “win-win.” An All-American water polo player his junior year, Emanuel was honored by LMU in his senior year as the “Male Student Athlete of the Year.”
Emanuel didn’t grow up dreaming of someday working in the space program. His was the more typical boyhood fantasy of becoming a firefighter. At LMU, he was surprised to find his calling in mechanical engineering and aerospace. Since his last semester as an undergraduate, Emanuel has worked nearly full time on a team developing an efficient way to assemble the propulsion system for SpaceX’s Dragon 2 spacecraft.
“I really love it here,” Emanuel said, from his office at SpaceX. “I try to learn something different every day and believe that hard work will get us through the challenges.”
Before graduation, Emanuel was hoping for an offer to stay on at the Hawthorne-based SpaceX. If it comes, he will defer graduate studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he’s been accepted.
Emanuel wrapped up his thoughts about his experience at LMU: “I’m thankful for all the people who helped me through this journey. In the end it’s all about who can help you through the tough times — LMU has a great support net for all the students.”