2024 COMMENCEMENT SERIES | Marquette Nursing student carries forward family tradition for fourth generation 

Blue and Gold has run in Natalie Venditti’s family for nearly a century

Senior Natalie Venditti (front row, second from right) poses with family members.

When Natalie Venditti chose to attend Marquette and enroll in the College of Nursing, she was following in the footsteps of her mother. 

And her great-grandmother. 

And all her great-uncles and aunts. 

“My entire family was over the moon about my college decision,” says Natalie, a senior. “My grandmother was ecstatic about it, and she didn’t even go to Marquette –  but all of her kids did.” 

When Natalie walks across the stage at Commencement, she will become both a fourth-generation Marquette graduate and a fourth-generation nurse. The tradition started when her great-grandmother, Dorothy, graduated from the St. Joseph’s Hospital Training School for Nurses, which Marquette acquired in 1936. More than half a dozen of Natalie’s relatives have earned BSN degrees from Marquette Nursing in the years since. 

Although Natalie grew up in Massachusetts, her parents had a circle of Marquette friends they would meet up with to watch basketball games. The bond among that group was palpable for Natalie even at a young age. 

“My family members who went to Marquette seemed to come out of their experience with really tight-knit friend groups,” Natalie says. “Mom and her friends moved across the country together and I grew up with that group my whole life; they were basically aunts and uncles with how often I’d see them.” 

“I tried not to be biased, but we went to at least one or two Marquette games per year at Georgetown or Providence and I think that might have helped,” says Anne Venditti, Natalie’s mom and a Marquette Nursing graduate. 

Basketball games and get-togethers with friends may have helped push Natalie toward Marquette, but her drive to pursue nursing came from the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted her senior year of high school. Anne was floated to the COVID unit, treating patients who needed a skilled nurse more at that moment than at any other in their lives.  

Natalie had a front-row seat to her mother’s experience and the experiences of one of her aunts, who was also in a COVID unit. Her biggest takeaway from hearing their stories is that nursing is the profession for helpers. 

“Nursing is a way to do good things for other people and being there for others is a great purpose to have in life,” Natalie says. 

“You are such an important part of so many people’s lives as a nurse,” says Sharon Dziengel, Venditti’s aunt. “How many other people can say that? We’re a part of your biggest family benchmarks. They may not remember your name, but they’ll remember the care you gave and that you were a part of their lives.” 

Once she arrived on campus, Natalie wasted no time immersing herself in the Marquette experience. She took a job at the Union Sports Annex that she held for the last four years, treating her family to free bowling whenever they were in town. Much like her mother, Natalie completed clinical rotations at health care sites around Milwaukee, learning about subject areas such as community health, long term care and labor and delivery. Natalie’s apartment on 17th Street was just four blocks away from where Anne lived in The Strack apartments.

These activities, which Natalie will soon refer to in the past tense as “her college days,” are similar to her family members’ Marquette memories. Anne fondly recalls being one of the first students inside Emory T. Clark Hall, which is now hosting its final undergraduate classes ahead of the college’s move to David A. Straz, Jr., Hall. Dziengel made service a touchstone of her time with the university, visiting group homes to care for adults with cognitive impairment and learning about refugees on the Southern border during a university-sponsored trip to Texas that is still held today

All three Marquette Nurses found their time at the university helped them become a fully formed person as well as a better professional. 

“I like how Marquette approaches things from the holistic perspective,” Anne says. “This university teaches you how to walk in someone else’s shoes and realize what they’re going through, which is so important as a nurse. When we see other people, they’re in the most vulnerable period of their lives. We learn to center empathy and faith in our practice at Marquette.” 

Family members were always around to aid Natalie on her journey. Dziengel is a clinical nurse with Aurora in the Milwaukee area and there are lots more family members nearby in Racine and the Chicago suburbs. 

“I was happy Natalie chose Marquette. Having her nearby was great,” Dziengel says. “Being able to see her more often and support her through a formative time in her life was really comforting.” 

After graduation, Natalie plans on staying close to her Midwest family; she has accepted a job as a cardiovascular ICU nurse at Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital and plans to start in June. She’ll carry on the family nursing legacy by working 12-hour shifts and tending to patients in need of a courageous, caring health care professional. Through it all, she will remember the greatest lesson she took from her time as a Marquette student. 

“Caring for the whole person was a huge part of my education and everyone around me has noticed it. The person you’re caring for is not just a patient; they’re a human being with a full life that brought them to this moment. Being around Marquette and my family taught me to see the bigger picture.”