Hello, my name is Melissa Pennestri and I am the director of undergraduate admissions. I am a former classroom educator turned admissions administrator.
My passion for education started as a child when I would pretend to be a teacher in my very own classroom in the basement of my house. Surprisingly, I did not major in education as an undergraduate. I actually majored in marketing and realized at the end of my junior year in college that I did not want to work in the business world. As you may suspect, you cannot change your major in college as a senior. As a first-generation college student, I found that out the hard way — when I entered my academic advisor's office to make that request, he not so kindly suggested I leave his office along with my request and prepare for graduation that year. I graduated that year with my Bachelor of Science in Marketing, worked during the day, and attended classes in the evening working toward gaining my teaching certificate and my master's degree in education. I completed both after a few years of hard work.
When I received my first teaching job, I was hired to teach 3rd grade. I remember telling my friends, "I can't believe they pay me to do this! I would totally do it for free!" I absolutely loved teaching, loved my students, and loved the dynamics of the classroom. I taught many different grade levels throughout my career as an educator. The last grade levels I taught prior to shifting to higher education were 7th and 8th grades. Those grades were especially fun for me because I was helping students prepare for high school.
After many years of teaching, I decided that I was ready to shift careers a bit, but I knew that I could never leave the world of academia. Higher education was always a passion of mine and I began to research the opportunities that were there. Once I came across "admissions" job postings, I knew that had to be my next career — I would get the opportunity to continue to work with students and parents but in a way that I had never done before. This upcoming fall, I will be entering my 7th admission cycle and I am thankful to have been given this opportunity so many years ago. I love working with students, families, and guidance counselors. I love traveling to high schools in the fall and the spring to meet those students only to eventually be home reading the applications of those very students. It is especially fun to run into a student I taught! I found another career where I cannot believe they pay me to do what I do! I consider myself very lucky.
As a native Philadelphian, I am not only lucky to have found the world of admissions but to have found it right in my backyard, where I was born and raised. I attended high school two miles from Drexel's campus, and I love coming to West Philly every day! I love the city of Philadelphia! I love its heartbeat, its fast-paced environment, its creativity, but most of all, I love the people. Philadelphians are a passionate people. We are passionate about our neighborhoods, our local heroes and celebrities, but most of all our food! There are so many great places to dine in the city; whether you are looking for a quick bite to eat at the Reading Terminal, a long-standing family-owned traditional Italian restaurant, or a more fancy upscale dining experience, Philly has it all! Philly has turned into an incubation hub not only for new restaurants and restaurateurs but for entrepreneurs of all kinds. This is the place to plant your seed for the next big idea, our city is home to many start-up businesses as well as leaders of industry! This city has what you need to succeed: passion and drive.
My family and I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia and that is where my two sons have grown up. I would take them to Philly all the time when they were little hoping to instill in them the grit that I believe Philly has. I am proud to report, they have fallen in the love with the city as well! So much so, that my older son is currently a Drexel student and my younger son has just decided to attend. Proud to be the mom of two dragons!