By Olivia Nicoletti
Elizabeth O’Hara has accomplished a lot in her time at Rider University. She’s been a leader of many clubs, risen to the president of the Student Government Association (SGA) and earned the respect and admiration of her peers and professors around campus among many other achievements. O’Hara’s laundry list of accolades grew when she was recognized as a rising star for her dedication to involvement by the New Jersey Business and Industry Association (NJBIA).
The senior computer science and graphic design major originally had a different future in mind. She planned to be a health science major, but during her last years of high school, she recognized that it was no longer suited for her.
Her interests shifted after she was given the opportunity to design the website and advertise for the Young Women’s Symposium. The event was hosted to showcase several different women and what it meant to be a woman in those industries.
“Reflecting on the contributions I had made to this event, computer science and graphic design just made sense,” said O’Hara. “Graphic design encapsulated my love for creativity and computer science utilized mathematical concepts to understand complex algorithms. I also wanted to understand the technical and design aspects of software design.”
During O’Hara’s freshman year, she involved herself in several different organizations to test out her interests. Her leadership roles began to take off in her sophomore year. By her senior year, she described her involvement to be intentional, where she took on “fewer roles with greater depth.”
“All of the organizations that I have been involved in connect back to my values in some way. My goal throughout my involvement was to leave the organization or campus community better off than how I found it,” said O’Hara. “Since I’ve been presented with these opportunities, I want to return the favor and set up the next set of leaders for success. My leadership has never been about filling a resume, it has always been rooted in contributing to areas that meant the most to me.”
According to O’Hara, Director of Student Involvement Barbara Perlman and Director of Recreation Programs Dianna Clauss were mentors who helped her to navigate her leadership roles.
Clauss said, “Having had the pleasure of working alongside Liz for the past two years, I’ve learned she is a very responsible and hard-working student leader. Her strength of character and work ethic are top-notch, and whenever she accepts responsibility for a project or task, I have full confidence in her that she will complete it effectively and in a very professional manner.”
Perlman was introduced to O’Hara by Olivia Barone, the SGA student body president at the time, at the beginning of her freshman year.
“Olivia shared that Liz was a promising new leader and that she hoped that Liz might be interested in joining SGA. Four years later, she stepped into that very role and is doing the very same thing, encouraging new students to get involved and make a difference at Rider,” Perlman said. “It was clear from the start that Liz had what it takes to lead her peers with poise, confidence and courage. Her work ethic is unparalleled, and I am always astounded at her seemingly limitless talent.”
Additionally, Assistant President of computer science Md Liakat Ali, The Online Lecturer for the department of computer science and physics and the Graduate Program Director of cybersecurity Elizabeth K. Hawthorne and Chair of computer science and physics John Bochanski have helped steer O’Hara in the right direction for her future endeavors.
Bochanski recognizes O’Hara as one of the most dedicated and hard-working students that he has had the privilege of knowing.
“She is a self-starter, seeking out leadership opportunities like the SGA and her multiple internships,” said Bochanski. “Her future is bright, and I look forward to seeing what she does in the future. In addition to her academic success, I’ve seen how considerate Liz is with the people around her. She gets along so well with others and doesn’t make anyone feel left out. As impressed as I am with her academic success, I’m equally impressed by her character.”
Similarly, Hawthorne describes O’Hara to be a first-class student and leader.
“She takes on the hard challenges and excels in the face of adversity,” said Hawthorne. “Her ethics and moral compass are beyond reproach.”
“I’d like to acknowledge everyone that has served alongside me in clubs and organizations I’ve been a part of,” said O’Hara. “Success is not achieved alone, and I am lucky to have such a strong support system here on campus.”
The award that O’Hara received was a great demonstration of her hard work. According to the NJBIA website, the award, “identifies future business leaders currently completing their undergraduate education who have demonstrated leadership, a passion for their anticipated field, and a commitment to volunteering/community involvement.”
“Being recognized by NJBIA is an incredible honor. It is a reminder that hard work pays off, and it motivates me to do even more to give back to our campus community,” said O’Hara. “It is a thank you to everyone that has been part of my story so far: my family, professors, peers, mentors and anyone else who has encouraged me to leave a positive mark on anything I am involved in.”
O’Hara described college as a place where you can grow and learn as a person. She encouraged students to explore and find the best options suited for each individual.
“Sometimes the best learning opportunities are the things that don’t work out,” O’Hara said. “Everyone’s college experience looks different and the path you want to follow will change over time. You don’t need to have all the answers.”