Foundation Board Member Feature: Dayna Del Val

Meet Dayna Del Val, a proud Dragon with strong ties to MSUM and a passion for the arts in our community and beyond.

Dayna Del Val, a 1995 theatre graduate, is the President & CEO of The Arts Partnership and has served on the MSUM Foundation board of directors since June 2020.

Do you have any previous/additional connection(s) to MSUM?

My mom graduated from MSUM with her Music Ed degree right before I graduated from high school. My younger brother graduated from MSUM as well. I also adjunct taught there in English from 2003-2009 and most recently in EIT in 2020, my husband is a professor in the Biological Sciences dept, and my son took Calc II and III as a senior in high school as part of his prep for a math major.

What energizes you in your role serving on the Foundation Board?

I feel strongly that the fine and liberal arts are undervalued nearly everywhere in our country and across our educational systems. Collectively, we’ve made enormous investments in STEM education, which is not in and of itself a bad thing, but when the arts are removed from the curriculum and from people’s day to day lives, the STEM fields and those who study and work in them suffer, too. I’m inspired to advocate for continued investments in faculty, programming and curriculum that keeps the arts alive and well.

What experiences at MSUM have influenced your life the most? Which have helped you succeed?

My theatre degree was invaluable. I learned to take risks, to fail and get up again, to work independently and in a group, to give and take direction, to manage criticism and disappointment, to think about the world from someone else’s perspective and to incorporate play, curiosity and creativity into every aspect of my personal and professional life.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Who was it from?

From my Stepdad: “Right now, you’re standing on the shore, watching boats go past, and you’re not getting anywhere. Get in a boat. You can always hop from boat to boat to boat, but you can’t do anything while you’re stuck on the shore.” His advice, including the encouragement to go back to school and get additional education, has served me brilliantly over the years and in all facets of my life.

Where’s your favorite on-campus meeting place?

I love to meet at the public art acorns and cattails in the center of the quad because everything about that piece inspires me: I love that it was a collaborative effort between a number of faculty and Forecast Public Art; I love that it was funded by Minnesota’s Percent for Art program on their public campuses; I love the inspirational quotes from a diverse set of people; I love that it increased safety on campus with the creative use of cattail lights; I love that it is at once both at the center of all the activity on campus and still feels intimate. It’s a wonderful piece of public art that exemplifies both form and function.

What personal or professional achievement are you most proud of?

I’m professionally proudest of having led the arts sector in the Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo Metro for almost a dozen years now. This job has opened doors for me and taught me things about myself I never would have discovered without it, and I feel enormously proud of my time advocating for the arts.

I’m also incredibly proud to have been invited to give the December 2019 MSUM Commencement Address.

I’m personally proudest of a decision my husband, Dr. Andrew Mazz Marry, MSUM professor in the Biological Sciences dept, and I made two years ago on February 1, 2020, to publicly reveal, through writing, video and podcast episodes, his fall into alcoholism and climb back to sobriety and the journey we took to joyfully restore our marriage. Taking that big, scary step has brought so much joy and new opportunities to us. Today, we host a twice-weekly livestream called “Daily Dose of Dr. Marry & DD” where we share our experience and talk with guests about theirs so that others feel less alone and to help end the stigma and shame of alcoholism. 

What experiences in your life inspired you to give?

So many people helped to support my son and me when I was a young, single mom. I qualified for grants and received scholarships to attend college. I received government assistance through WIC, daycare assistance and income-based housing. People in my life reached out in meaningful ways: an anonymous $100 bill came once in the mail, couples  took us out for lunch after church on Sundays or invited us to their homes for dinner and dads of my son’s friends included him when they were out and about. People really looked out for us, and I always knew I would pay that forward when I could. It’s my privilege, and honored obligation, to make sure others get lifted up, feel seen and know they are supported in ways large and small.

Photo Credit: M Schleif Photography

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