Our latest addition to our series of Alumni Council Q&As features Council 1st Vice President Dan Gottron ('08). Dan and his family are actively involved in the Waynesburg alumni community.
Q: What is your current job/title, and what is your current location?
I am an administrator in the McGuffey School District in Washington County. I have had a couple of administrative positions here, currently as an interim principal at Joe Walker Elementary.
Q: Can you describe your typical day?
Every day is a bit different, but generally mornings begin with getting all the students checked into the building, making sure there are substitutes or available coverage for any absent teachers, and doing a walk of the building. The day then continues with a combination of visiting classrooms, planning out any upcoming school events, and participating in meetings and discussions about both individual students and school and district matters. McGuffey has afforded me the opportunity to participate in many initiatives at the district level, so a good bit of time is devoted to looking at academic matters as well as behavioral and social emotional supports for students. Then, the day typically concludes in similar fashion to how it starts, but in reverse, as we work to get all the students out the door and onto the bus safely. Through all the juggling, I try to make it a goal to visit as many classrooms as possible, and of course recess.
Q: Can you describe your time at Waynesburg and how it shaped you as a person?
Probably the best way I could put it is that Waynesburg, both as an academic institution and as a town, became my adopted hometown. Besides living on campus for my four years as an undergraduate, my wife and I also spent four additional years living in the community. When I am asked where I am from, I typically say that I grew up north of Pittsburgh but that Waynesburg is my home. Many of my closest friendships formed during my time as a student. In terms of how my experience shaped me as a person, I would say it molded me to be focused on service. As has been well documented over the years, Faith, Service, and Learning are not just the school mission on paper, but are truly woven into the student experience. Largely because of my time immersed in this culture, along with my student teaching placement at West Greene, I have chosen to dedicate my professional life to serving and developing rural Appalachian schools and communities.
Q: What is your favorite memory as a Waynesburg student?
There are so many, it would be hard to pick one, but I will list a couple of memorable things I got to be a part of. I was lucky enough to live my sophomore through senior years in two different on campus houses that provided the backdrop for countless memories and lasting friendships. My participation in the cross country and track programs also produced many great memories and friendships. If I had to narrow it down to a few particular events, the first few that come to mind would be our yearly end of year week of fun and campout in Johnson Commons, all night Monopoly during finals weeks, my membership on the Collared Redstarts intramural soccer team, and weekly Tiger Woods Golf competitions my freshman year.
Q: Where has life taken you since graduating from Waynesburg University?
It has been a winding journey. Most importantly, life has brought me an incredible family. My wife Heidi and I are approaching our 9th anniversary. Our son Guy is finishing up kindergarten and will soon turn 6, our daughter Joanna is 4 years old, and our daughter Samantha has recently turned 2. There have been several moves since graduation, down to the southern tip of West Virginia in McDowell County, back to Waynesburg, north to the Alle-Kiski Valley, and finally south to Washington, where we currently reside. It has also taken me down a winding career path, first as a teacher, and now as an administrator, in several different schools and districts. I also have recently completed an EdD program and had my dissertation titled “The Interaction of Adversity, Hope, Social Support, and Academic Resilience in Emerging Appalachian Adults” published in October of 2020. We are very happy in this corner of southwestern Pennsylvania, and plan to really put roots down as our children grow.
Q: Why is staying connected with your alma mater important to you?
I think it is important because Waynesburg provided me with so many of the relationships, opportunities, skills, and memories that have colored my life. I identify such an important and formative period of my life with my time as a student at Waynesburg, and staying connected and involved allows me to bring myself back to those roots. It is important to me to remember where I have been, and Waynesburg, along with Pine Springs Camp, is one of the places that I most strongly identify with.
Q: What does your role as Alumni Council 1st Vice President entail, and what motivates you to give back to the University in this way?
I have served on the Alumni Council since 2013, and it has allowed me to stay involved with Waynesburg in a meaningful way. The bulk of my role involves participating in our Alumni Council meetings and hearing updates about the university, as well as providing input and feedback on the way that Waynesburg can connect to and engage our alumni community. I think that my motivation lies in wanting to help build a legacy at Waynesburg. Our transformation as an institution over the past 25 years or so has been well documented, and I love being a part of that narrative. When I decided to attend Waynesburg, this transformation had been underway for some time, but many people I spoke to still had outdated notions of what Waynesburg was. As this transformation continues, I want to make sure it is known that Waynesburg is an exceptional school with an exceptional turnaround story.
Q: Who was your favorite professor at Waynesburg, and why?
A tie between Dr. Thomas Pavick and Dr. Maureen Mulvaney. The both served as my advisors, Dr. Pavick for the history department and Dr. Mulvaney for the education department, and I had them each as professors for multiple classes. They invested in and believed in me as a student, and they spent unlimited time and energy helping to mold me into the person I have become. I am grateful to Dr. Pavick for fostering my love of history and for showing me how all of history is a narrative that fits together, and to Dr. Mulvaney for mentoring and building me into the educator I am today.
Q: What advice do you have for current students? For recent graduates?
For current students, enjoy your time on campus. While you may know this is a special and formative time in your life, it is impossible to know in the moment just how big of an impact this time can have. Embrace every day of your student experience, get involved in things, and make good choices about what you do and who you associate with. As Andy Bernard said in the last episode of The Office, "I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them." My advice for recent graduates would actually run parallel to the advice for current students. You may have recently concluded an incredible four years, but there is a reason they make the windshield so much bigger than the rear-view mirror. Embrace the life you have in front of you. Pursue the blessings and opportunities you will be presented with. Don’t be afraid to take a risk, and if that risk puts you in a job that isn’t the right fit for you, don’t hesitate to make a change. It was hard for me to see as a recent graduate, but my life, my family, and my career, have all grown and flourished in ways I could never have predicted or expected. It is hard to gain perspective from the starting line, but the journey in front of you is a great one.