When fourth-year student Milana Sacco first stepped foot on campus, she knew right away that Case Western Reserve was the perfect fit for her. It was the only university she found that accommodated her academic aspirations: a bachelor’s degree in business management with a secondary major in theater arts.
She expects to complete both this spring.
Driven by her passion for the arts, Sacco connected with the Department of Theater and the CWRU Footlighters, a student-run musical theater club, where she recently starred as Elle Woods for the university’s adaption of Legally Blonde.
Beyond her studies, Sacco was inspired by CWRU’s motto to “think beyond the possible”—a philosophy that resonated with her own values—and became heavily involved on campus.
“I love the emphasis CWRU places on being well rounded,” said Sacco, who was awarded the Robin G. Kramer Student Volunteer Award in 2023 for her commitment to volunteerism and civic engagement. “My experiences have brought this to life, and it is something I want to continue through my life.”
But Sacco isn’t all work and no play. She recalled her favorite undergraduate memory during the 2023 homecoming weekend, when she was selected for homecoming court. During this time, she had the opportunity to perform with the Case Concert Choir, see The Wiz at Playhouse Square with the CWRU Footlighters and reconnect with friends who are now CWRU alumni.
“Each year, homecoming weekend highlights the best and most important parts of CWRU, and I was honored to be able to participate,” Sacco said. “I loved meeting the other court members and attending all of the different events. The homecoming tailgate is something I looked forward to each year and this year my entire family was able to attend as well—even my poodle, Eloise.”
Outside of her studies and volunteerism, Sacco operates Made by Milana, a small business that specializes in homemade baked goods and handmade apparel. And in her free time, she enjoys reading fantasy and romance novels and playing with Eloise.
Read on to learn more about Sacco’s campus experience.
Answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
1. Why did you choose your fields of study?
I am incredibly passionate about the arts, and I knew I wanted that to be part of my career. The business aspect of the arts has always interested me, so I felt the combination was perfect for me. At first glance, it’s a combination that may not make much sense, but collaboration is crucial to both. I find working with others appealing as you hear new ideas and see things from multiple perspectives. Collaborating and creating a sense of community is crucial to both the business world and staging a production.
2. What is your favorite production that you performed in with CWRU Footlighters?
Each CWRU Footlighters show holds a special place in my heart, but my absolute favorite has been Legally Blonde. Elle Woods is a dynamo, and portraying her was a dream come true. It’s a fun show with a serious message: Be true to yourself.
I was lucky to play Elle, whose inner strength, growth and integrity made those around her better—and it doesn’t hurt that she is a dog lover with a kick-butt wardrobe and shoe collection! Everyone involved in the show got along, and it was a great experience for all. We truly were a family.
This spring, I will direct the musical 9 to 5, and I am very excited to be taking on this new role. CWRU Footlighters has been a special part of my undergraduate career, and I will cherish the memories and friendships I have made through this organization the rest of my life.
3. You are very involved across campus—what inspired this? How have your experiences in extracurricular activities contributed to your personal and professional development?
I was inquisitive growing up. My parents always encouraged me to try new activities and supported my interests and passions. Many of the groups I was involved in helped nurture a sense of purpose which instilled confidence and gave me an outlet to develop my talents and leadership abilities. I knew coming into college that I would remain active outside of the classroom, and I wanted to focus on areas that brought me joy.
When you are passionate about something, you put more effort into it. The activities I participate in allow me to pursue my interests and use my talents, but they also strengthen the CWRU community by helping and entertaining others. My work with Center for Civic Engagement and Learning, Case Concert Choir, CWRU Footlighters and Newman Campus Ministries have allowed me to grow personally and professionally because they have allowed me to problem-solve, work with others, and be a confident, compassionate leader. These skills will help me in any future endeavor.
4. How do you manage your time and prioritize tasks to balance academic responsibilities and extracurricular involvement?
Time management has always been a strength of mine. I am good at staying on top of my work. I like to get things done early and stay ahead of the curve, so that I don’t fall behind. I also know my limits and when I have taken on enough. My mental health is always my top priority, so I never overextend myself.
5. How does your volunteer work align with your academic pursuits at CWRU, and how has it contributed to your personal and professional development?
Volunteering has aligned with my academic pursuits by enriching my life with more diverse experiences. The work helped sharpen my communication and time management skills and taught me the importance of flexibility and open-mindedness. I see issues from multiple perspectives and points of view while recognizing different needs in our campus community, the greater Cleveland area, and society at large.
This has helped me evolve as a compassionate leader and that is something I will build upon professionally. I believe that you can’t be a good leader professionally if you aren’t a good person.
6. Is there a specific volunteer experience at CWRU that had a significant impact on you and the community you served? What motivated you to get involved in that particular project?
My work volunteering for the AdvantageCLE program at Mary B. Martin Elementary School. Through the program, I help provide one-on-one tutoring, as well as participate in hands-on activities that engage students in recreational and educational programming. I help implement daily and weekly lessons, including sessions on tennis, literacy, creative writing, wellness, and STEM. I have been serving as the Semester Serves leader for the program for the past five semesters, and it has been incredibly rewarding going back each semester and seeing the students’ growth.
7. What are your goals post-graduation? How do you plan to continue your involvement in civic engagement beyond CWRU?
Whether in business, theater or both, I hope to “think beyond the possible” to create change and inspire others. I hope to find a career that is financially stable and meaningful.
My college experiences have given me a solid foundation that I hope to build upon, and I would like to further develop my passion for the arts by pursuing theater management, production and performance. I remain committed to personal growth and fulfillment with a job I enjoy, people that I love, and a community in which I have purpose.
I hope to continue working on projects that are meaningful to me, including promoting literacy, civic engagement and expanding the arts. The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy, and I have been involved in CWRUVotes since my first year on campus. Political engagement is an area of interest, more so in focusing on voter education, outreach and action. The issues I have worked on at CWRU are national issues with a local focus. I will remain involved with them wherever my future path takes me.