SOJ Insider | Lauren O'Connor

Pipes & Bikes

May grad gets a charge out of skydiving, bagpipes and motorcycles

By Natalie Eddy and Jessica Carloss

On any given day, you might find Lauren O’Connor (BSJ, 2008) playing the bagpipes, riding her motorcycle or skydiving. The public relations graduate doesn’t shy away from challenges.

That adventurous attitude brought her halfway across the country from Houston, Texas, to Morgantown as a direct admit student to the School of Journalism. She initially was attracted here by the outdoor activities offered by WVU. As a freshman, she joined the WVU rowing team, getting up at 4 a.m. every morning for practice on the Monongahela River.

“It was a lot of fun, but it was really difficult,” said O’Connor.

Professionally, she found her niche in journalism while enrolled in adjunct instructor Charles Harman’s public relations health class. In that class, students serve as the public relations agency for real-world clients, designing campaigns that help launch products and address public health issues.

After taking Harman’s class, O’Connor knew the public relations program was the right path for her.

“As soon as I got involved in Professor Harman’s class, I knew that PR was what I really wanted to do,” said O’Connor.

The major gave O’Connor the variety she craved and the ability to apply something she loved to do in her everyday life – meet people.

“PR is always changing and exciting,” said O’Connor. “I love getting to know people one-on-one.”

O’Connor’s curiosity and willingness to try anything once has taken her down many paths.

“I wouldn’t consider myself a fearless person,” said O’Connor. “I do what I think I’ll enjoy.”

In addition to being a full-time student, O’Connor worked as a tutor at the WVU Writing Center, played flanker on the WVU women’s rugby team, played bagpipes professionally, ran a local lawn mowing business and rode her motorcycle daily.

While in school, O’Connor found ways to connect her extracurricular activities to her career goals. “In every aspect of my life I involve myself in PR,” said O’Connor. “In addition to being the public relations coordinator at the piping school, I was the social officer on the rugby team.”

When O’Connor decided she wanted to learn how to play the bagpipes, she attended the Balmoral School of Piping in Pittsburgh, Pa.

After taking lessons for one week, O’Connor engaged herself in the school’s marketing efforts for their inaugural Balmoral Classic, a weekend event in November 2007, featuring some of the finest bagpipers in the world. The main event, which O’Connor helped organize and promote, was a concert at the Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh, featuring Dublin’s 48-member St. Laurence O’Toole Pipe Band, along with dancers and other traditional Irish music.

Living life each day to fullest is what drives O’Connor. Her definition of success is not how much money is in your wallet but how rich your life is.

Following graduation, O’Connor set off on another adventure to New Jersey, serving in her new role as Hewlett-Packard’s Global Marketing Communications Manager.

Continuing her adventurous spirit, O’Connor is also considering flight school to become a helicopter pilot, an ambition that stems from her childhood experience of flying small planes with her father.

Living life each day to the fullest is what drives O’Connor. Her definition of success is not how much money is in your wallet but how rich your life is.

“I feel that I’m a really success-driven person, and I strive to do things that I find exciting and interesting,” said O’Connor. “That’s what life is all about, not how much you make but what you make of it.”

Perley Isaac Reed SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM

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