Gryphon Spotlight: Dan O’Leary

DannyO is a second year Gryphon in Richards. He’s the Gryphon on the 4th floor, but don’t stop by unless you’re down to chill because he can talk for hours and is always looking to get a new experience out of life.

Area: Richards

Year and Major: Junior, Mechanical Engineer

Hometown: Allentown, PA

Three things that make me happy:
1. Girlfriend
2. Country Music
3. THE NY Giants

One thing I can’t live without: L-A-S-A-G-N-A

Favorite entertainment medium (movies, music, books, etc): Music

Favorite thing about Gryphoning: Being the glue that puts first-year students and Lehigh success together.

Favorite thing about living in a residence hall: Who wouldn’t love living with a bunch of random people? Everybody is so different and has so many stories that you can never be bored.

Other activities: Youth Coaching at Parkland Youth Center


Altering Expectations

Five summers ago, just a few months removed from my high school graduation, I set out on one of the most intimidating journeys of my life. I left the only place I had ever called home to move to a state I had visited just once on my campus tour, to a college where I knew no one – save for the roommates with whom I exchanged e-mails and Facebook messages.

Despite my trepidations, I felt confident that I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. I was convinced that my college experience wouldn’t waver much from the plan I had for the next four years, after which I would move on to a yet-to-be-determined urban locale with the job of my dreams.

Like many first-year students, I was wrong.

For one, my undergraduate experience lasted a few months longer than a neat-and-tidy eight semesters in four years, which believe me, is not as uncommon as you might think. And I still live in little old Bethlehem.

I thought that I was destined to be a Civil Engineer, and then a Mechanical Engineer, until I ended up with a degree in Applied Science. Today, I’m working as a Communications Associate with Lehigh’s Communications and Public Affairs office. This fall, I’m working toward a Master’s degree – in American Studies.

I knew nothing about fraternities and what they did, and did not intend to join one. But I became a member, and then a chapter president. I count the men in my chapter as lifetime friends and brothers.

I became a Gryphon as a sophomore for the free housing and half-priced meal plan (PS: You should get a block plan, the 225-meal plan to be specific. Trust me.) But I ended up serving as a Head Gryphon during my junior and senior years, and the experience taught me more than I ever anticipated.

College, like life, can be pretty unpredictable. And like life, college has a way of looking at your plans for success and laughing at them. There are simple things you can do that will make a huge difference, like actually attending your classes no matter if they are optional, too early, or a little boring. But you can’t expect or anticipate everything. You’re destined to make a few mistakes.

You can, however, expect college, especially one like Lehigh, to change you. It won’t happen overnight, but before you know it, four years will have gone by and you will most certainly be a new – and better – version of yourself. You’ll look down at your student ID card and hardly recognize the face staring back at you.

Step outside of yourself. Get involved in things that you care about. But don’t overdo it. My sophomore year, I took 35 credits while being involved in at least 4 student organizations. I wouldn’t recommend it.

If you need help, ask for it. Help others when you’re able. As a Gryphon, I helped students with issues ranging from trivial to serious, and they’ve never forgotten. When I run into my residents, the last group of which will graduate this spring, they always thank me for being there for them.

College is about learning, making mistakes, and growing. Be better for it. And don’t take it for granted.

Karl Brisseaux ’11 is a Communications Associate at Lehigh. He graduated with a B.S. in Applied Science, and worked with the Office of Residence Life as a Gryphon in Centennial I (McConn), Centennial II (Beardslee), and Warren Square from 2008-2011.

Want to hear some more advice about how to succeed personally and professionally at Lehigh? Check out what our panelists have to say…

Getting Involved

As a freshman, I was completely overwhelmed with the variety and number of organizations that I could become a part of during my years at Lehigh. I remember writing my name on contact list after contact list during the activities fair on the first day of classes, mostly because I wanted all of the free stuff that clubs and organizations were giving away (shh!). As I started to get emails from these organizations, I began crossing ones off my list as I found out more about their missions, goals and commitments levels. I knew that I wanted to try many new things, but at the same time I didn’t want to overwhelm myself too much by spreading myself too thin. In an effort to not influence you sign up for certain clubs or programs, I am not going to include the names of activities that I was involved with during my Lehigh career, this is, after all, YOUR Lehigh experience to shape!

I applied to a few programs, and after I was accepted to several, and after joining some other activities, I realized that some of these extracurricular activities were just not for me, even ones that I had participated in during my high school years and loved. I told myself that I would not quit something the minute I realized that it was not for me, and one club in particular sticks out in my mind. At the time, I dreaded each meeting time, but by sticking it out, I met one of my best friends and to this day, we still reminisce about the interesting experiences that that group brought to our Lehigh careers.

There were other organizations that I joined, that I enjoyed the minute I walked into the first meeting I attended, and knew from that moment that I wanted to become more involved as I developed as a college student. I will leave you with my top seven tips or thoughts for making the most out of your Lehigh experience.

  1. Sign up for a wide variety of clubs, groups and organizations. Apply or tryout for at least one program or activity. (I found that the application process made me appreciate the value of the organizations that I applied to throughout the course of my time at Lehigh.) Include a mix of things you know you enjoy already and things that you are interested in learning more about. Remember: this is your time to try new things!
  2. Give things a chance before you decide if you like something or not. Everything will be overwhelming in the beginning, so don’t be afraid to ask questions or take a minute to stand back and observe the dynamics of an organization.
  3. Get to know upperclassmen who are leaders, whether their title reflects their leadership, or not. They know the inner workings of their clubs and programs, and were once in your shoes.
  4. Volunteer! Lehigh has so many wonderful volunteer opportunities for students, and by participating in these events you will meet new people, learn about yourself and even about some other things to get involved with at while you’re at Lehigh. Not only will you learn about Lehigh from a different perspective, you will also learn about Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley, where you will call home for four years.
  5. Network. As cliché as this sounds, it is so important to get to know the people that surround you at Lehigh, whether it is fellow undergraduate students, graduate students, coaches, professors, professional staff members, alumni, etc. You never know who might be a great connection for you in the future, and having Lehigh as a common ground is invaluable.
  6. Departments across campus are always bringing famous and interesting speakers and presentations to campus. Make sure to attend a few of these events each semester, and take advantage of these opportunities to expand your knowledge of various topics. Challenge yourself and attend a lecture about a topic you are not very familiar with.
  7. Have fun! When I graduated from Lehigh, my friends and I wished that we had taken even more advantage of the diverse events that take place at Lehigh. You will look back on the times that you took a 10 minute break from studying for 4 o’clock exams more than the 10 hours you spent in the library—don’t get me wrong, studying is extremely important, but remember to balance it out with some fun!

Megan Hanks, Class of 2011, has been keeping busy since graduation with an internship in public relations and plenty of traveling. She recently moved to Philadelphia for a new job and is looking forward to getting more involved with organizations and volunteer opportunities in the city.

Want to hear more?  Here’s what our panelists say about getting involved on campus…

Far From Home

Growing up, I was told on a nearly daily basis that I was expected to go out of state for college. Both of my parents had done so, my dad to UNC, my mom to Wisconsin. It’s not that Kentucky doesn’t have some great schools – it really does. But the independence you will learn from being a good distance away from your family is priceless, they would say. Go become an adult on our dime. What 18-year-old is going to argue with that?

Moving up to Pennsylvania, I expected to be shocked by the weather (in Louisville parlance, I was going to school “up north”). What I didn’t expect was a culture shock. During the usual introductions that abound during orientation week, people looked at me funny when I said I was from Louisville, with the native pronunciation – “Loo-ah-vul”. I had to say “like the baseball bat” more times than I can count. And let’s not get into a typical northerner’s reaction to the word “y’all”. It’s like y’all have a better option (“you all” is clunky, and I refuse to acknowledge it).

But mostly, I didn’t realize that even though Lehigh is a top national university, it is also very much a regional school. I was shocked when people would leave for the weekend because it was a family member’s birthday, or a brother had a football game. I didn’t realize that I was supposed to go home for that short little four-day weekend in October that I had seen on the calendar. My parents weren’t about to pay $300 for me to come home just because I had Monday and Tuesday off. So I improvised – I went on the Community Service Office’s pacing break service trip to D.C., and had a wonderful time. Easter in the spring presented a similar predicament, as my roommate packed for the long weekend. But my fellow Jews and I organized an Easter day football game and held court in an abandoned Rathbone.

My parents were right (hardest. sentence. ever.) Going to school far away from home did make me more independent. I had to watch what I spent, because nobody was going to drop a blank check off at campus. If I got sick, I had to put myself in bed and get better through the power of ramen noodles and free drugs from the health center. I was in plenty of plays at Lehigh, and my parents only got to see one. It made me realize how important family is, and also how a great group of friends can substitute for family in a pinch.

Going to Lehigh was one of the best decisions I ever made. I made friends for life, met my wonderful boyfriend (at the promenade the first week of classes), and took classes that led to the job I have today. I got to grow up (and have a great time) on my parents’ dime. Who could argue with that?

Katie Walker is a member of the Class of 2011 (Graduated 2010). At Lehigh, she studied English, and she is currently living in Philadelphia working as the Associate Editor of Organic Gardening Magazine.

Check out what our panelists have to say about dealing with distance…

Residence Hall Council

Hi guys!
I’m Leah, and I’m the current Residence Hall Association (RHA) president – I was VP last year, and it has been an awesome experience for me. Everyone involved in the organization is really enthusiastic about planning awesome events for the campus community, and we have put on some really successful programs. A few of my favorites were Terror Behind the Walls (a trip to the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia), The Hunger Games Premiere at the Promenade, and the Carnival, of course. Being a part of RHA has been a great leadership opportunity for me, and that leadership starts in the Residence Hall Councils (RHCs).
There are five positions available to run for in each residence area and these five people also work directly with the umbrella organization, RHA. This means they not only plan events for their own areas, but they have a say in the campus-wide events as well. I would totally recommend running for a position because it is a great way to get involved and meet your fellow leaders on campus!

Leah Paulson is a junior Global Studies and Spanish double major. Along with being the current RHA president, she is also on the Women’s Rowing team, a Gryphon in Campus Square, and a TA.

The positions available in each building area are:
Vice President
Programming Coordinator

For more information, check out the RHA page on the Office of Residence Life website or log into the HUB to submit an application.

Applications are due by Friday, September 14 at 12:00p.m.