Ryan Lynch had no idea where he wanted to go to college until late in his senior year of high school in Morristown. By March of that year, he realized he needed to make a decision, and though he considered and visited a number of schools, one thing stood out about East Tennessee State University.
“People hold doors for you at ETSU,” he said. “That’s really a simple concept. And people would talk to you when they didn’t know you. My first time on campus, I probably met five new people who went out of their way to talk to me when that didn’t happen anywhere else. I felt like people wanted to know me, and know who Ryan was, rather than just having someone to boost their numbers.”
Lynch immediately immersed himself in campus life, both making new friends and sharing with new incoming students the same welcome he received. “I knew, when I came to orientation and saw those people doing crazy dances on stage, that was exactly what I wanted to be doing,” he recalled. “You could just tell that they were having so much fun.”
Lynch first joined Admissions Ambassadors, quickly followed by the Preview and Orientation Leaders Organization (POLO). “Those two organizations affect the university the way no other organizations can,” he said, pointing out that the one-on-one contact the members provide to incoming students is invaluable. “For example, just in POLO alone, you have over 1,000 students coming in. Obviously, I alone can’t connect with all 1,000 students, but I can connect with 40. The diversity in that group is really what allows it to thrive.”
Now in his third year of college and already a senior, Lynch enjoys many other activities, including participating in the President’s Pride student service honorary and intramural sports, as well as working with the Buccaneer athletics program as a tutor.
The University Honors Scholar started out undecided on his major and initially thought about pre-med, but later declared a double major in finance and accounting. “It struck me that in two and a half or three more years, what I’m doing now is what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life, so I needed to figure out something that I liked,” he said. “I knew I liked math, and I also knew I really liked investing and personal finance. And one of my favorite businessmen, Warren Buffet, said that ‘accounting is the language of business.’ Everything in finance utilizes, in some way or another, accounting information.”
Lynch’s college experience was enhanced last summer when he participated in ETSU’s Study Abroad in Rome program, which he and three others extended with visits to Amsterdam and Dublin.
“The class was formatted like few other study abroad classes can be. Because it dealt with architecture, going to the Coliseum was class, going to all these different structures was part of your class, so it fit perfectly,” he said, adding that he appreciated the knowledge and guidance of program faculty, who were there to help whenever needed but also allowed students the freedom to experience on their own many aspects of Rome and Italy that were not part of scheduled classes. “On my own, I could’ve walked everywhere we walked as a class, but I wouldn’t have known what any of it was – it would have been some ‘old buildings,’ and that would pretty much have been it. It was really cool to have them to explain the history.”
Some of Lynch’s biggest takeaways from that trip came outside the classroom.
“In Ireland, we went on a trip where we walked one of the top 10 scariest road bridges in the world,” he said. “I learned to take chances every time you get them. Instead of thinking, ‘Hey, I’m terrified of heights,’ think, ‘Just do it. You’re not going to get the opportunity again, so just do these things while you can.’
“It also showed me how much we take for granted. In Rome, there isn’t widespread air conditioning, you ride public transport everywhere, there aren’t washers and dryers – but nobody ever complains about it. It’s a cool experience. When you get back, people complain because they have to park an extra 50 feet away, and it just really doesn’t matter. There, people get from point A to point B, every day, walking. It’s not necessarily that the things we have are bad, because I do think they’re all nice things – I love having a washer, I love having a car and other luxuries – but you don’t necessarily have to have all those things, as much as we, myself included, depend on them here. It makes me not mind walking as much now.”
Lynch is open to many possibilities for the future. After graduating in May 2018,
he intends to work in either finance or accounting, and might eventually move to a
larger city. He’ll get a good start this summer, when he heads for Chicago to serve
an internship in the transfer pricing group of Duff & Phelps, a global valuation and
corporate finance advisor.