The Beginning: The first time I met my Gryphon she was walking down the hallway in a towel, having just finished a shower and heading back to her room. She wasn’t expecting to meet one of her newest residents that day, as first year move-in was scheduled for a few days later. I was there to participate in a pre-orientation program called Volunteer Experience and had arrived to start a three-day project helping to build a home in nearby Bucks County. Like any great Gryphon, she excitedly welcomed me to the hall, regardless of the fact she was wearing a towel and had not yet finished with the door decorations and bulletin boards for the floor.
Best thing I did at Lehigh #1: Getting involved early, joining clubs, getting rejected from groups, joining different groups, and meeting lots of people all helped me get settled and find my place at Lehigh.
I had so much fun volunteering with other students and meeting people during orientation that I decided to get involved on campus right away. At the club fair during the first week of school, I signed up to join a bunch of clubs, including a soccer team and an organization for LGBT students and their allies. I auditioned for an a Capella group (and got rejected), went to speakers on campus, played frisbee outside of Taylor College, and went to BBQs hosted by our Gryphons. I met so many different people and learned a lot about all that Lehigh had to offer.
Best thing I did at Lehigh #2: Finding a close group of friends to share the Lehigh experience with by being involved in campus life gave me a support system and created relationships that have lasted well beyond our time at Lehigh.
My second year at Lehigh, I was selected to be a Gryphon in Richards and helped welcome a new class of first year students. I wouldn’t have even considered applying to be a Gryphon if I hadn’t gotten to know one of the professional staff members in Residence Life who suggested that I apply. He encouraged me to get involved and by the middle of my sophomore year, I had responsibilities as a Gryphon, was serving on the executive board of a student organization, was co-directing a student production, and was involved with the Women’s Center, Multicultural Center, and Rainbow Room working to make Lehigh a more open and inclusive community. The other Gryphons on staff became some of my best friends at Lehigh, friends that I am in touch with to this day. The other students in the clubs I was part of also became my great friends, friends I have traveled with, lived with, and still turn to for fun and advice.
Best thing I did at Lehigh #3: Building relationships with faculty and staff members provided me with the mentorship and network of connections that helped me develop a strong foundation for my career.
By the time I was a senior, I had made connections with students, faculty, and staff from a variety of places across the university. I completed an honors thesis with a faculty member in my major and learned important skills in research and writing. I had connected with several staff members in the Residence Life office who had helped me secure a summer internship and provided advice about my future. They served as mentors to me, and when it was time to think about life after graduation, they helped provide the window into a world that has become my career.
I didn’t know that the field of higher education administration even existed prior to coming to Lehigh. Through my involvement as a Gryphon, working with student clubs, and on the task forces and committees I was asked to join because of my good relationships with administrators, I started to see that I could turn my passion for having a great college experience into a career. I decided to use my Presidential Scholar award to spend a fifth year at Lehigh to pursue my master’s degree in educational leadership, which I completed in 2008. During that time, I started a full-time position working at Lehigh’s Career Services, a job I was offered because of a connection I had made during my undergraduate time with a staff person in that office. I had turned my newly found interests into the start of a great career.
I did eventually leave Lehigh, but only physically. Since my time there, I have transitioned into professional roles at two different colleges and made steady progress in a thus-far successful career in higher education administration. I am involved in local and national organizations that serve my profession and have received recognition for my contributions to the field. I would not be where I am today if I had not taken advantage of the full offerings of Lehigh both in and outside the classroom, spent time with great friends, and devoted time to get to know faculty and staff beyond what was expected. I carry with me all of the skills, relationships, and experiences I gained during my time at Lehigh. It has proved to be an invaluable toolkit for me both personally and professionally, and was ridiculously fun along the way.
Chris Diggs works in higher education administration and is currently the Assistant Director for Student Affairs at Baruch College. She graduated from Lehigh University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and religion studies. She also received a Master of Education degree in educational leadership from Lehigh in 2008. Chris is a native New Yorker and enjoys taking advantage of all that the city has to offer.