When it came time to think about going to college, West Virginia University wasn’t on Chris Hickey’s radar.

Oh sure, he was familiar with the school, spending many a cherished fall Saturday with his dad – an active alumnus – going to football games.

That was the problem, he says; WVU meant “football.”

Yet here he is – an Honors College freshman studying business at WVU.

“I wrote off the University,” said Chris, of Glen Mills, Pa. “I didn’t want to be known as just ‘Jon Hickey’s son.’”

But Dad, a 1977 graduate and former president of the Delaware Chapter of the WVU Alumni Association and member of the Alumni Association board of directors, assured him that wouldn’t be the case.

“He told me, ‘I’m going to be honest. I was not an overachiever in college. I did more for WVU after graduating,’” Chris said. “My mom jokes that he lives his college years vicariously through the Alumni Association.”

The turning point for Chris came at an Alumni Association picnic in Delaware. Friends of his father told him that their son had gone to the Honors College at WVU.

Every year, WVU welcomes a new group of students to the Mountaineer family. They come from a variety of places, with a variety of backgrounds. But they have one thing in common: they all use the education and experiences WVU offers to create their own, new story. Click on the photos below to learn about two other WVU students and their different paths to becoming Mountaineers:

Irinka Toidze 1

Joy Wang

That intrigued Chris because he didn’t think of WVU as anything else but a “football school.”

“I didn’t know WVU had an Honors College, so that idea got into my head,” Chris said. “Over time, they’d give me other subtle suggestions about going to WVU.”

In the summer of 2011, Chris decided to take a proper tour of the campus – one that didn’t involve touchdowns and fanfare. He visited the Honors College and met with its dean, Keith Garbutt. And he made the trip without his dad, who wanted no part in trying to sway his decision.

Up until then, Chris was leaning toward New York University or an institution in the Washington, D.C.-area. WVU was the last school he visited.

“They say you know it when the fit is right,” Chris said.

The large alumni base, warmth of the community and accessibility of Honors College won Chris over.

“One of the selling points for me was WVU’s huge alumni base,” he said. “I also didn’t want to go to a school where I was a number. Here, there’s a liberal arts feel and many different connections and options for students.”

Upon entering the Honors College, Chris had to write an essay about what it means to be a Mountaineer. He pondered on that topic, and soon realized that he fits perfectly in the Mountaineer community.

He wrote about WVU being perceived as an “underdog.”

“I can relate to that,” he said. “People say you’re not good enough or they give you certain limitations. But you do whatever you can to prove them wrong and break down those barriers. I feel like the whole West Virginia and WVU community embodies that idea. That’s our mentality.”

Chris’ concentration in the College of Business and Economics is marketing. He developed an appreciation for marketing in high school when he interned with Aloysius, Butler and Clark, an advertising agency based in Wilmington, Del. There he got to participate in staff brainstorming sessions and pitch ideas for projects. He hopes to have a job in marketing or social media after college.

In addition to academics, Chris has already submerged himself into many facets of WVU. He’s joined a glee club, photography club and applied for the student conduct board for Honors and Summit halls.

His favorite thing about WVU so far? “Books at Bedtime.”

Every Tuesday and Thursday night at the Honors Hall, Garbutt and his wife Christine read aloud to students sipping hot tea and cocoa.

“It’s a great way for us to sit down as Honors students and relax,” Chris said.

For someone who never pictured himself at WVU, Chris is making the best of his Mountaineer experience.

If you’re meant to be a Mountaineer, it will happen.

And instead of living in his father’s shadow, Chris is creating his own.

He said, “Even though I’m going to his alma mater, I’m still discovering who I am and what I can be.”

By Jake Stump
University Relations/News



CONTACT: University Relations/News

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