Gal Dahan makes a home at Stritch
Family. Open. Home.
These are the three words that senior Gal Dahan uses to describe Cardinal Stritch University. The psychology and communications major has spent the last four years at Stritch, which is more than 6,000 miles from her home of Beit Yehoshua, Israel.
Gal had originally planned to attend a university in Washington, D.C., but when that fell through, she wasn’t too disappointed. Since her first email exchange with women’s basketball coach John Pfaffl, ’13, a part of her had always known she belonged at Stritch.
“I was really interested in Stritch because of its diversity, large number of international students and small class sizes,” she recalled.
Coach Pfaffl and Director of Student Support and International Education Sarah Sweeney, ’15, helped Gal navigate the process of enrolling at Stritch. She moved to Milwaukee to begin her college experience without ever setting foot on campus or in Wisconsin.
“I was really nervous the night before I was scheduled to leave home,” Gal said. “But my dad told me not to look at it as four years. He said, ‘Think of it as one day. And then one week…one month…one year.’ And now I can’t believe that four years are almost over!”
In her time at Stritch, Gal has been a leader for the women’s basketball team on and off the court. She says the team has given her more than she could have imagined.
“Being part of this team has given me space to learn and support to make me feel like I am home.”
With the encouragement of Sweeney, Gal has also shared parts of “home” with the Stritch family. In December 2021, she led the University’s first menorah lighting in celebration of Hanukkah.
“I will always remember walking in to the Great Hall on that day,” said Gal. “On one end, there was a cross. On the other end, a Christmas tree. And in the middle, a menorah. Stritch gave us a space to share all of this together.”
In recognition for her leadership and advocacy for equity among all members of the Stritch family, Gal received the Diversity and Inclusion Award in May 2022.
“Gal speaks her mind and does so in a measured and respectful way,” said Sweeney. “We have continued conversations about how international students can be successful at Stritch. She has helped so many feel welcome and included on campus.”
One person who has experienced Gal’s kindness is 2021 graduate Miles Jett. He and Gal met in class and immediately became friends.
“Gal is the most caring and compassionate individual I have ever met,” said Miles. “She is someone you can count on during hardship.”
During his time at Stritch, Miles lost his mother, brother and a close friend. Gal’s support and friendship helped him get through those very difficult times.
“A few days before I graduated from Stritch, I have Gal a keychain with a quote that says, ‘Life is so much more beautiful with you in it,’” he recalled. “That was a gift from my mom, and I passed it along to Gal. Now she travels the world with that keychain, and it feels like a symbol of our friendship.”
As Gal prepares to graduate in May and pursue a master’s degree in organizational psychology, she knows that she will miss the home environment she created at Stritch.
“It’s the people,” she said. “The people make the place.”