Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Daniel James O'Hara (2013)

My First Generation Story

I would say my life growing up was relatively average. My family didn’t have a lot of money, but was able to raise enough money to send me and my two older sisters to a Catholic grade school and high school. Because my parents worked so much, we stayed at our grandparent’s house. My grandfather would always do what he could to help another person, and he taught us many things.

At the end of middle school, my mother left my father, and we moved with her. Tragedy struck just three months later when my older sister, then a senior in high school, got into a car accident and was paralyzed. Looking back, I realize that my life was a blur—I would spend my time going to school, training for or playing football, then come home to help my family take care of my sister.

In 2006, my grandfather, one of the few people I looked up to, died of cancer. It’s odd, but through his death, I better understood life. I came to the realization that in the end, we all go the same, regardless of how great or lowly we may be; so we might as well lighten each other’s burdens as much as we can. After that, I changed my attitude towards others—I would help them as much as possible, be it through tutoring, fundraising or just doing simple tasks for them.

My grades during high school were always mediocre, but despite my lack of effort, I always received A’s in mathematics, computer programming, and the sciences. When I applied for college, I had multiple career paths I could have taken, but none of them seemed like a good choice for me. Not wanting to go in undecided, I marked geology for my major.

On my first day at IUP, I learned that my arbitrary choice of a major was the best choice I could have made. Geology became, and still is, a fascination for me. My attitude completely turned around; instead of doing nothing and just getting by, I continue to focus on academics. I’m in the McNair program and plan to go on to graduate school. I’m a dean’s list student, was accepted to two internships (including a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates), completed three research projects in geology, and in March 2013, was selected for the national Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship.

About the Student

Daniel James O'Hara

Dan O’Hara, from Ebensburg, Pa., is a first generation student double majoring in geosciences and computer sciences at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He is a McNair Scholar with a passion for understanding earthquakes—what causes them, how they can be predicted. Research he conducted with his professors, Dr. Katie Farnsworth and Dr. Jon Lewis, led to his acquisition of a National Science Foundation internship at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Dan is also a 2013 Barry Goldwater Scholar.   Click here for a video of Dan discussing his research, his life, and the opportunities made possible by IUP.

Student Stats

Name: Daniel James O'Hara (2013)
Age: 22
Year in School: Senior
Major: Geoscience
Favorite Course: Newfoundland Field Study
Dream Job: A geophysics professor, so I can continue research while teaching the next generation of geoscientists.

About the School

Indiana University of Pennsylvania logo

Founded in 1875, Indiana University of Pennsylvania is a vibrant, comprehensive, research-based, teaching-focused, student-centered learning community. About 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students are currently enrolled in the accredited and nationally recognized programs at IUP, enjoying traditional and nontraditional classroom experiences, engaging in research and service activities with their faculty mentors, becoming lifelong learners, preparing for rewarding careers and productive lives, and developing leadership skills for effective citizenship.



  • Kellee Edmonds
    Vice President of Communications and Public Relations
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