CSU Valedictorian Connor Mahon '22, who graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics from the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, and a Bachelor of Arts in Speech and Hearing from the College of Sciences and Health Professions.
Connor M. Mahon
Cleveland State University: Can you tell us about the moment you decided to move forward with CSU – your “yes, this is the college for me” moment, if you will?
Connor M. Mahon: There wasn’t a single moment for me. I’m actually a third generation Viking, so Cleveland State was always on my radar. Once I began my freshman year, I was very fortunate to discover just how good of a fit it was. The genuine connections with faculty, downtown location, and abundant opportunities made me confident that CSU was the best choice for me.
CSU: What made you go into your major(s)? Were there any defining moments or inspirations that led you on that path?
CMM: In high school, I watched a documentary about a child with osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease. It showed her visit to a speech-language pathologist, and I wondered why the same person who helped my elementary classmates say their “r” sounds would have reason to treat a condition like hers. I did some research, and soon found out that a speech-language pathologist can work with almost anyone across the lifespan and in a huge variety of settings. This endless variety, plus the ability to wake up each day and make a tangible difference in peoples’ lives, made the major extremely appealing.
CSU: Once you started getting into your major classes, how did your perception of that course of study change?
CMM: It affirmed my decision 100%. There were so many times where I would hold my professor back at the end of class with all my extra questions to get deeper into the content. To explore all the angles I wanted to, I kept adding on additional courses, leading me to a second major in linguistics, a minor in psychology, and the certificate in bioethics. There’s still so many topics to explore, so I’m really looking forward to beginning my graduate program this fall.
CSU: What was the best class you’ve taken at CSU – or the class you enjoyed the most – and why?
CMM: A possibly surprising opinion of mine is that I love general education courses. There’s a few I enjoyed so much that I was attempting to add even more majors and minors to my degree plan. My honors electives, Intro to Fiction with Dr. Jeff Karem and Origins of Christian Religion with Dr. Matt Jackson-McCabe are great examples of this, because they showed me how their subjects, English and Comparative Religion respectively, could still be interesting and enriching despite their distance from my career goals. It was in those classes that I really cultivated a love for learning, and I left feeling like I better understood the people and the world around me.
CSU: How has CSU cultivated your character, values, and standards of excellence?
CSU has put me in contact with so many incredible role models, who all hold themselves to a high standard of excellence. It was through learning from them and emulating that work ethic that I grew to be the person I am today. My supervisors in a few of my on-campus jobs, including Samantha Sharkey, former Resident Director of Euclid Commons, and Kara Tellaisha, Coordinator of LGBTQ+ Student Services, taught me so much about being a professional, as well as how to advocate for myself and push for what I value.
CSU: How do you think you’ve changed or grown during your time at CSU?
CMM: I hardly recognize the person I was when I started here. I was so introverted and anxious, but I had some amazing friends that pushed me out of my shell and helped me develop more confidence. I started caring more about the world around me and what I could do to change it for the better, and I now try to live by the philosophy that whenever there’s a problem, I want to be part of the solution.
CSU: Aside from being Valedictorian, what stands out most to you about your CSU experience?
CMM: Living and going to school in downtown Cleveland has really defined my experience. It puts you in the center of the action, and there’s always something going on, from Ingenuity Fest, to Walnut Wednesdays, to Pride in the CLE. Being close enough to walk to see a musical in Playhouse Square, a show at the House of Blues, or an event in Public Square all make me feel connected to the city, and I am so glad I chose an urban university.
CSU: What is your favorite CSU memory?
CMM: Hosting the CSU Drag Show this year! It was a collaboration between the Campus Activities Board, Queer Student Alliance, and LGBTQ+ Student Services. We packed the ballroom to capacity, and I got to introduce and perform alongside so many of my incredibly talented friends, as well as the amazing Dakota Cox. I’m looking forward to visiting for the return of this event next year!
CSU: What’s next for you in life and how has your experience at CSU prepared you for it?
CMM: I will be attending the University of Pittsburgh for a master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology, with a concentration in voice. This is one of the top ranked programs in the country, and I couldn’t have gotten accepted without the incredible education and foundation that CSU has provided me. Every single one of my professors was more than willing to go above and beyond and serve as a mentor or assist me with a project that let me make my academic experience my own. The Pre-Professional Health Programs team at Career Development & Exploration was also there to walk me through every step of the process, setting me up for future success.
CSU: What advice would you give to the next class, or even a freshman entering your major?
CMM: Get involved! Opportunities are everywhere and so much of my personal and professional growth happened outside of the classroom. Countless students and staff are working behind the scenes to make your time here great, but you will always have to take that first step yourself. Once you do, there’s a whole other side of CSU to experience. Also, take advantage of being in the heart of Cleveland! There’s so much our city has to offer, and we don’t say “the city is our campus” for nothing!