Conversations about faith and religion are often avoided. In the midst of polarized times such topics can be especially daunting. However, as shared by Rev. Brian E. Konkol, dean of Hendricks Chapel, a key to understanding others lies in having…
Couple Joins Others in Celebrating Their Orange Love
Gianna Mangicaro ’18 and Christopher Szlamczynski ’18 eat, breathe and sleep Syracuse University—literally. Both are Syracuse University employees, alumni, current students and together are one of the thousands of couples whose love story is influenced by their Syracuse University experience.
Mangicaro, pre-college program specialist in the Office of Pre-College Programs at University College, and Szlamczynski, assistant director of satellite facilities with Recreation Services at the Barnes Center at The Arch, were one of dozens of couples from across the country who took part in the University’s first ever virtual Orange Love celebration on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day.
The event was a partnership between the Office of Alumni Engagement, Hendricks Chapel and the Office of Philanthropic Engagement. It included music and a vow renewal led by Hendricks Chapel Dean Brian Konkol. Those attending were offered the opportunity to make a donation to the Hendricks Chapel Student Opportunity Fund and receive an Orange Love Certificate in the mail.
Born five days apart, Mangicaro and Szlamczynski were both raised in Syracuse and met as children at Woodland Elementary School in the East Syracuse-Minoa School District. Mangicaro’s dad, John, is a longtime University employee in Information Technology Services, and Gianna remembers coming to campus often with him. “I have always loved Syracuse University—it was forever my dream school,” she says. Szlamczynski grew up in a family that strongly supports Syracuse University sports and he often came to campus to attend basketball games.
The two became a couple just before their senior year of high school. They graduated from East Syracuse-Minoa High School in 2014. Mangicaro came to Syracuse to study management in the Whitman School, and Szlamczynski started his studies at Alfred University, where he played on the football team. A year later, Szlamczynski transferred to Syracuse as an exercise science major (then in the School of Education).
“During the welcome events for transfer students, I kept taking his picture, I was just so excited,” says Mangicaro.
Their next three years of undergraduate studies generated a lot of happy memories for the couple. They traveled more than 30 hours by bus each way to cheer on the men’s basketball team in a Final Four game in Houston, the Camping World Bowl and countless other games. Szlamczynski worked as a strength intern for the football team, and Mangicaro recalls that watching him at work during football games would bring her to tears. “I was just so excited that he was doing what he loved,” she says.
They also found that supporting each other in their academic work and other pursuits helped to fortify their foundation as a couple.
“Chris is my balance beam,” Mangicaro says. “When I am stressed, he can instantly bring me from 100 back down to 10.”
Szlamczynski agrees. “We are very good at supporting each other and making sure we have what we need to succeed.”
They graduated with their undergraduate degrees in 2018 and began their jobs with the University that same year. Both say they love the energy of campus. “I always knew I wanted to work for Syracuse University,” Mangicaro says. “It is such a great family environment.”
They continue to offer that strong support for each other as they balance their jobs with pursuing their master’s degrees. Mangicaro is working on her MBA through the Whitman School’s 2SU online program, and Szlamczynski is pursuing his master’s degree in sport venue and event management in the Falk College.
A wedding will take place sometime in the near future, when the COVID-19 pandemic has abated and Mangicaro and Szlamczynski can bring their wide circle of family and friends to celebrate. And, of course, it will be in Hendricks Chapel.
Both were grateful to take part in the Feb. 14 celebration. “We loved seeing all of the couples at the Orange Love event. From newlyweds to couples who have been together for years, it was amazing to feel a part of the larger Orange community,” says Mangicaro. “I am thankful that technology could bring us all together, even when we are apart. It was also great to see people in their home settings—from children, pets and grandchildren—you really were able to feel connected!”