My Carolina Experience: Meghan Lyons
By Zoya Johnson, GoHeels.com
From a very young age, Meghan Lyons knew her goal as an athlete was to go to a Division I institution. She spent her summers researching the experience by attending collegiate camps that provided a dorm, dining, team culture and coaching experience she could either discount or consider for the future. Once she was introduced to what that experience was like at Carolina, Lyons knew UNC was exactly where she was meant to be.
As a high school student who embodied her school's motto "Multa Bene Facta: Doing many things well," the continual challenges that Carolina provided was exactly what the gifted Lyons needed. She exited that stage of her life with four state championships in field hockey and lacrosse. She served as her cross country team's captain, obtained All-State and All-America honors in field hockey, graduated at the top of her class and led the school's community service committee and student-faculty council.
The ability to excel in multiple areas to the highest degree possible is something she knew Carolina could provide. Additionally, the growth the Carolina community fosters through its unique and all-encompassing approach to excellence was something Lyons knew she couldn't find anywhere else.
Another key factor in her final decision, aside from the beautiful campus and a challenging academic experience that boasted one of the finest field hockey coaching staffs in the country was the Richard A. Baddour Carolina Leadership Academy. The Academy provided the final piece of the puzzle that the determined Delaware native felt was vital to her growth.
From 2009-2012, Lyons was a part of teams that reached four NCAA championship games while winning two ACC Championships and the 2009 national championship. She was a four-time member of the NFHCA (National Field Hockey Coaches Association) National Academic Squad, was named to the ACC Academic Honor Roll four times and was tapped for the Dean's List all but one of her semesters at Carolina. Lyons also represented Carolina as one of Five Finalists for the John Wooden Citizenship Cup and in her final year was awarded the Athletic Director's Scholar-Athlete Award for the field hockey team.
"I firmly believe that you can't move forward without giving back. As John Wooden once said, 'Happiness begins where selfishness ends.' As an out-of-state student at UNC, public service provided the opportunity to feel at home and to become an integral part of the local Chapel Hill community, beyond campus life," Lyons says. "Creating student-athlete relationships with the UNC Children's Hospital, the IFC Homeless Shelter and the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, greatly enhanced my college experience and I will forever be invested in those organizations."
Lyons became the first student-athlete at Carolina to serve two years as the Student Athlete Advisory Council President. She also served as a member of the UNC Undergraduate Honor Court and chair of Carolina Dreams in her junior and senior years. In doing so, Lyons was always at the forefront of anything on campus that had to do with the improvement of student-athlete relations.
As one of the founding members of the Journalism School Ambassadors, Lyons made it a point to share the reality of being a student athlete with the rest of campus. Her participation as a panelist during the J-School's First Amendment Day in 2012 allowed her to give her perspective on the issue of student-athletes and their lack of freedom on social media platforms. The panel gave insight into the duties and responsibilities of student athletes as the faces of the university and allowed the community as well as the public to see that the title of student-athlete comes with additional burdens beyond those met on the field and in the classroom.
The topic tied directly into the first level of the leadership academy which teaches student athletes about self -leadership and introduces them to their ability to brand themselves through their actions and connections. The leadership academy remains an integral part of Meghan's continued success after college because it gave her a tangible way to measure her leadership qualities, improve them and remind her of what specifically made her such an exemplary leader.
"UNC provided the perfect environment to channel my competitive fire. My time management skills allowed me to immerse myself in several important leadership positions and university organizations, in addition to my academic and athletic responsibilities," says Lyons. "I was fortunate enough to have a coach who believed that leadership and academic success are positively correlated with success on the field."
Lyons has continued to use the tools she gained though Carolina Athletics in the work environment. Her current position as a member of the Google+ marketing team allows her to connect her experience as an athlete with the worlds of social media and entertainment.
"Social media is an incredibly powerful tool, allowing people all over the world to connect through shared passions and connections that would otherwise be impossible. As an athlete, I learned the importance of 'stopping on a dime' (quoting Tar Heel field hockey Coach Karen Shelton) and this ability to adjust and pivot, based on the focus of my team, has been a major asset in the Google work environment as well.
"My current role has allowed me to intersect my passions for technology, entrepreneurship, social platforms and sports to create new, innovative experiences. Traveling to the Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos through Google Glass and empowering NFL Draft prospects to connect and communicate with friends, family, fans and media from their own YouTube channels during one of the biggest moments of their careers are just two of the many moments that have motivated my efforts to integrate Google's product in the sports space to make the world an even better, universally accessible place."
Although she is miles away in New York and constantly traveling to fulfill her duties as part of the Google+ team, her connection to UNC is one that is unwavering and embedded in everything she does.
"The student-athlete experience at Carolina is unique and unparalleled. In my view, the way to get better at anything is to surround yourself with the best and the brightest and to be a sponge - on the field and in the classroom," Lyons says in reference to her years in Chapel Hill. "In whatever you do (and wherever you go), be a sponge for new information and embrace new ideas, while staying true to the ethics and the level of integrity that UNC espouses."
Simply put, the legacy Meghan Lyons left here at UNC is reflective of what it truly means to be a Tar Heel. It is one of overall success and a constant drive to represent something bigger than one's self.
"Tar Heels are born to persevere and overcome, we concentrate on the real and the present. That's why we win," says Lyons.
Every student athlete at Carolina is given the tools to succeed through an athletic support system and mentors who come in many forms. What completes that formula for success is the student-athlete's own desire and drive, and those are both things Meghan Lyons more than exemplifies.