Edit desk: What does ‘Lehigh family’ mean to you?


On Oct.15, I received the dreaded Apple notification that my computer was almost out of storage. As I sat there stewing about the inconvenience, I began sifting through my old files, deleting old papers and study guides. I eventually landed on one file named “Lehigh Supplement Essay.” Being my nostalgic self, I decided to give it one last read before dragging it into the trash. 


Back in 2017, the question posed to me, and other applicants by Lehigh’s Office of Admissions was, “What does Lehigh family mean to you?” In 350 words, my job was to explain how a school that I barely knew could potentially be my family. 


The task seemed odd, but I specifically remember that this question intrigued me. Most schools that I applied to had asked supplemental questions about community service, personal skills, or overcoming adversity. After attending the same small school for 14 years, a question about family made me feel comfortable in a process that was extremely unfamiliar and unsettling, so I decided to answer it. 


As an 18 year old, I wrote the following: “To me, being in the Lehigh family means getting another chance to be a part of a school that understands the value of deep-rooted tradition. After attending the same school for the majority of my life, I know what it feels like to embrace your school as your family. It encourages you to not only be involved, but to lead others in the classes, clubs and sports that you love.”


While I wrap up my final fall semester at Lehigh, I reflect on this question, what I wrote and what this school actually became to me. 


When I say the words “Lehigh family” in 2021, the first thing that comes to mind is the Department of Journalism and Communication.


Going into school, it felt like I was struggling with everything while adjusting to a new environment. It was a kind of growing pain I had never experienced after living in the same town, going to the same school and having the same friends since my childhood.


During the second semester of my freshman year, one of my journalism classes, “Writing for the Media,”, was the first place where I actually felt like myself on campus. I felt safe in the walls of Coppee Hall and found myself gravitating there after classes to do my homework and study. 


My professor at the time, Professor Christine Schiavo, strengthened my skills and made me feel confident in my ability. She made class collaborative and gave us the time we needed to bond and build friendships in a new space. 


Every once in a while, Professor Schiavo would pause class and tell us stories about working in the newsroom that made the job seem dangerous and thrilling.


My favorite classes were the days when she recounted being a young reporter in the industry. One day, she told us that she would keep a police scanner next to her bed when she slept so that if something happened in the middle of the night, she would be the first reporter at the scene.


Besides stories, she gave us advice about working in the media world. It was in that small classroom on the top floor of Coppee Hall that I started picturing my career— now able to begin developing my goals for the future. 


Looking back to 2017, Professor Schiavo and the fellow students in my class started to make Lehigh the school that I wrote about in my supplemental essay. I found a place where I could make connections and be excited to learn. 


I will graduate from Lehigh this spring as a far more confident woman than I was four years ago. Change no longer scares me as it did when I first walked onto this campus in 2018. 


I still have more growing to do in the next six months before I leave this campus for good, but I am so grateful for the path that Professor Schiavo and the Department of Journalism and Communication pointed me towards. 


As for what “Lehigh family” really means, I think I am still figuring it out. What I do know is that it definitely includes them.


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