Megan Lyons Mahoney ’13 – My Carolina Story

For many years, a member of the GAA Board of Directors has presented a “My Carolina Story” at each of the board’s quarterly meetings, and we are sharing their stories with all of our alumni. Hark the Sound.

I’m so thankful and proud to have been part of a community that values and encourages this educational philosophy of leading change to improve society and to help solve the world’s greatest problems.

April 15, 2023

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Meghan Elizabeth Lyons ’13

I want to start by thanking you, the GAA Board, for the opportunity to be part of this fabulous organization and board – and for the opportunity to speak with you this morning. It’s wonderful to be back in Chapel Hill reflecting and sharing such special memories.

One of my favorite quotes is by a man I’m sure you’re all very familiar with, Steve Jobs, who said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

As I look back on my collegiate experience, our motto, “Lux, Libertas” (light and liberty) beautifully resonates with my UNC experience, and my post-grad experiences at Google, Darden, Glynn Capital, and Polywork – and I’m so thankful and proud to have been part of a community that values and encourages this educational philosophy of leading change to improve society and to help solve the world’s greatest problems.

For me, looking back… it all makes sense: In fourth grade, I launched my broadcast journalism career, videotaping interviews with teachers and 5th-grade students in order to inform my Lower School comrades on how to get involved in Cultural Explorers, a program empowering students to write stories and poems, produce artwork and informative documentaries to be celebrated once a month in the school auditorium. My love of journalism continued at UNC, and when I graduated from Carolina’s esteemed Media and Journalism School, I took my broadcast experience to a new level – interviewing major NBA and NFL athletes for Google.

At Carolina, I served as the Student-Athlete Advisory Council President, was selected to represent the university on our Undergraduate student-run Honor Court, served on several university-wide strategic planning committees, on a mission to enhance the student-athlete experience, with equal emphasis on both words.

I took a campus organization, Carolina Dreams, to the next level, creating unique opportunities for children and families of the UNC Children’s Hospital and UNC Student-Athletes. I also received a fellowship to launch a sustainable marketing campaign centered around skin cancer awareness for a local homeless shelter.

…and, guess what, my team also won a National Championship. Yes, all this is possible.

Looking back, one of my most defining moments took place in my freshman fall “Social Entrepreneurship” First Year Seminar with Professor Steve May. One class project required that we build our own philanthropic plan for an existing campus organization or a new idea we had developed. I remember carefully crafting a plan for the “Leave your HEELprint 5K” that would be part of a larger campaign to inspire students to leave their mark on Carolina. While at first, this was merely an assignment, it wasn’t until every student presented their project in front of that class that I realized my peers wanted to see this happen. One classmate, Brendan, turned to me afterward and said, “Meghan, you should really do this.” Nervous — but excited — I began to realize that Carolina was a place where I could bring my whole self. This was a place where my passion for service, leadership, athletics, community, and academic excellence not only came together but also represented UNC’s core values.

Fast forward, that next spring, I spearheaded the first-ever student-athlete 5K to benefit MPS II (Hunter syndrome) and 50 related lysosomal storage disorders, in addition to launching “Heel Date” a program, connecting chronically ill children at UNC-Children’s Hospital with their Carolina athletic heroes.

It feels like just yesterday I was standing right here, as an incoming freshman at Chapel Hill. Imagine this young girl from Wilmington, Delaware transitioning from one of 50 students in her high school class making a new life for herself at a top-notch university with 18,000 undergraduates. I’m living proof that pursuing your dream and leaving your mark is possible at UNC-Chapel Hill. The bottom line is, when you’re doing what you love at this special place, all things are possible.

In addition to Journalism, I’ve always had a clear passion for entrepreneurship. Innovation drives change—and the journalism industry as a whole has been completely transformed in this digital age. My investigative nature gave me the confidence to adapt quickly to this new challenge and the related environment, so much so, that early on in my junior year I was encouraged to apply for an internship at one of the most well-respected news outlets in the world, Bloomberg News. After several interviews on campus, I was scheduled to fly to New York for a final interview just a few days before our NCAA Final Four Championship. This was a week I’ll never forget; flying from Raleigh Durham to New York, and New York to Louisville to meet the team and prepare for our next few important days. I landed in Louisville, already dressed in shin guards and turf shoes, hopping into my head coach’s husband’s car and dashed straight from the airport to practice— and, on the way, I couldn’t have been more excited to receive a phone call confirming an offer. Mission accomplished. When I got to the field, we were set up to do corners, I said “hi” to my Coach – she said, “How’d it go, Meg?!” I responded, “I got the offer!” She gave me a hug and said “Good girl! Now hop in on D.” Now, time to pivot and refocus on the next task at hand, our semi-final game vs. UConn. and… if it sounds crazy, it was!

The same traits that made this week so memorable—- time management, handling pressure situations with confidence, and the ability to “stop on a dime” made me a strong fit for the First Word Team at Bloomberg in New York City. In addition to this phenomenal summer internship, I received a fellowship through the Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship, further enriching my professional summer experience in the Big Apple. During this fellowship, I was introduced to Google… and I was immediately captivated.

I saw this fast-paced, creative work environment with other intellectually curious Googlers— offering magic to the rest of the world, and I knew then that this was a place where I belonged. My affinity for technology is evident in my work product to date and has allowed me to thrive while pursuing my passion for education, innovation, and social platforms – all with the intention of making the world a better place.

There is no “one” UNC experience… but one thing remains the same: these individualized moments of our stories are collective memories that have shaped each and every one of us.

I will always look back upon the years of National Championship celebrations on Franklin Street, pre-FDOC (First Day of Class) sips at the Old Well, TEDxUNC celebrations in Memorial Hall and the beloved Clef Hangers performing under Carolina Blue skies with a similar nostalgia. The motto “Lux, Libertas” should never lose its place as a worthy ideal. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you and share my story today. Go Heels!