We all know that first day of class anxiety — finding our way, meeting new people and the dreaded “tell us a fun fact” ice breaker. However, that ice breaker is senior marine biology major Diana Sisk-Gritz’s favorite part, as she gets to tell her classmates that she was going to Montclair State University before she was ever actually accepted.
Just over 22 years ago, when Sisk-Gritz’s mother, Stefanie Mulley (then Sisk), was a normal freshman at Montclair State living in Bohn Hall, she began experiencing stomach pains. As described by a friend who lived on her floor in an April 2000 edition of The Montclarion, Mulley went to the hospital thinking she had a urinary tract infection, but instead came back with a baby.
“If you look at photos – my grandmother’s [big on taking] photos of holidays, everything – you couldn’t tell my mom was pregnant,” Sisk-Gritz said. “It’s just crazy to look at that and her not know at all that this was happening.”
Since her Montclarion debut in 2000, Sisk-Gritz said she loves to show off the article and tell people her story whenever she can.
“I feel like a secret celebrity, honestly,” Sisk-Gritz said. “It’s my favorite thing to talk about.”
Margaret O’Shea, who wrote the column “No Morning Sickness and No Weight Gain: Nine Months Pregnant and Unaware,” described the events following Sisk-Gritz’s birth, saying although her friend began commuting after spring break, the entire 11th floor adjusted their busy schedules to help babysit.
“My friends on my floor were amazing,” Mulley said. “They would love when Diana would come visit. She was like a little doll. They would put her on the bed with stuffed animals and fight over who got to hold her next. I’m still friendly with a lot of them on social media. They were all so excited when I told them Diana was going to Montclair [State].”
An aspiring veterinarian, Sisk-Gritz said she always knew she wanted to come back to Montclair State as a student herself.
“I feel like I’m a Red Hawk to heart and I bleed Red Hawk,” Sisk-Gritz said. “That’s what I joke around to people. I actually wrote in my paper to apply, I wrote, like, I was here – I was technically already accepted, you might as well continue it.”
Similar to where her life almost began, Sisk-Gritz’s college career began in Bohn Hall.
“I actually chose Bohn because I wanted to go to where it all started for me … Bohn is very special to me,” she said.
There, she met her roommate Tania Dominguez, a senior international business major, who recalled the time she found out Sisk-Gritz was almost born not too far from where their freshman dorm was located.
“When [Sisk-Gritz] first told me the story, I was in total shock and could not believe she was almost born a few floors above our dorm,” Dominguez said. “I told her she definitely made it full circle almost being born there and now living a few floors down 18 years later.”
Since starting at the university in 2018, Sisk-Gritz has not taken one moment of being a Red Hawk for granted. The accomplished senior is the president of two clubs: the Montclair Marine Biology Organization (MMBO), which she helped start, and the Pre-Vet Animal Science Club (PVAS).
“[The clubs] are both so wonderful to work with and it’s so much fun planning an event and having a million things go wrong prior and then seeing it come together,” Sisk-Gritz said. “Then when students come out and learn something or gain something, it never fails to excite me.”‘
While it’s been just over two decades since the initial shock of finding out she was going into labor, Mulley speculated that her daughter’s school spirit began before she was even born.
“[Sisk-Gritz] has grown into a beautiful, mature, driven and caring young woman,” Mulley said. “She has achieved every dream I ever had for her. I’m so lucky to be her mom.”
Tyler Frantino, a senior visual communication design major and Sisk-Gritz’s boyfriend of three years, said his girlfriend is emotionally driven and cares for animals as much as she does people, if not more.
“[Sisk-Gritz] is so driven and set on being a vet or supporting the environment and I cannot see her doing anything else other than that,” Frantino said. “She is a natural-born leader; a leader in the sense that it is not all about her, but about helping others toward a common goal.”
Her love for animals is not only evident in her extracurriculars, but in her apartment as well. Not all of Sisk-Gritz’s roommates are humans as she adopted Achilles, a hedgehog, at the beginning of this school year.
“He makes the toughest school days so much better,” Sisk-Gritz said. “He is just the perfect college buddy since he is nocturnal and by the time I come home from class and work, he is ready to play. He is just a big part of my family.”
Although she is set to graduate in May, Sisk-Gritz’s Montclair State journey is not over yet. The self-described workaholic will be continuing with her master’s at the university while she applies to vet schools in the United States, Ireland and Australia.
“I feel so accomplished that I had worked so hard to get [to Montclair State] and now I’m actually graduating from here,” Sisk-Gritz said. “It feels full circle for me.”