By: Tiffany King
December 11, 2023

Life often has a way of changing one’s plans, and it’s left up to that person to decide whether or not to go with the flow. For College of Coastal Georgia alumnus Dylan Morgan, he went with the flow when he decided to do his entire undergraduate career at the College. He is now set to start graduate school at Georgia Tech in January. Morgan will be using a combination of the communication, technical, math, and data science skills he gained at the College, in graduate school, as he pursues his master’s in analytics.

Morgan is originally from Plattsburgh, New York. His family moved down to Georgia’s coastal region when he was a child. Over the years, he spent the summers traveling up the east coast to places such as New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire, visiting family. When it came time to decide where he wanted to go for college, he decided to stay local—but only temporarily. Morgan enrolled at the College as a pre-engineering major, and planned to transfer to another college after obtaining an associate degree. However, those plans soon changed.

“I started to get to know people here, and formed relationships with some of the faculty,” Morgan said. “I started to do a bit more on campus, and in my second year, I was a part of SGA (Student Government Association). I didn’t want all of that to just go away.”

Morgan discussed this with his father, and they both agreed that completing his undergraduate degree at Coastal was the best option. It was a decision Morgan doesn’t regret. After enjoying his math classes so much, he changed his major to mathematics, then later to interdisciplinary studies, where he could tailor his collegiate career to focus heavily on math and data science. In May 2023, Morgan graduated with a bachelor’s in interdisciplinary studies.

He encouraged students to not worry about changing their major. While it’s great to have an idea of what to major in before going to college, Morgan said, students have some time to figure out their academic path.

Taking a Chance

Morgan’s favorite memories of being at the College revolve around his first days on campus, going to orientation, moving into the dorms, and participating in SGA. However, what really stood out was his time as a student assistant for eLearning, under the supervision of Director of eLearning Dr. Lisa McNeal.

“Dr. McNeal was really cool. That was my first real job. She took a chance on me, even though I didn’t have a lot of work experience,” he said.

He and his fellow student assistants were given administration privileges in the system to help the college community navigate Desire2Learn, also known as D2L.

“Our job was to support students and show them where everything is, and how to access basic information,” Morgan said. “Dr. McNeal would also have projects for me, and I was always happy to do them. Last year, we did this really cool project where all incoming freshman were required to take an orientation course. I helped make and edit several of the categories within the course. We would meet up in the library to discuss what we could do and how we could make it better. There was a lot of really cool stuff that I learned how to do. Dr. McNeal was a wonderful supervisor. Whenever I had an issue, I would call her up and she would answer.”

He shared how McNeal would stop by the D2L Helpdesk, located in the library, to check up on him and his co-workers. He described her as “quite remarkable.”

McNeal described Morgan has someone she could rely on.

“Dylan was a student assistant in the eLearning department from 2019 to 2022. During this time, I relied on him to help students who had technical issues with D2L or Respondus,” McNeal said. “I admired him for his ability to stay calm and focused during hectic times, such as the pivot to remote instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Morgan gained some valuable skills during his time with eLearning, such as communication and patience—especially when students were frustrated.

“Sometimes when students couldn’t gain access to the system or they can’t do something within D2L, they would yell, but we learned how to deal with it. Sometimes you had to let them yell, because they’re not actually mad at you, they’re just upset about the situation,” he said. “Usually, after they’re done yelling, we would give them a solution and they were very apologetic, so we never took it to heart.”

He also became more comfortable talking with new people—not only students, but administrators and professors as well. He helped professors create quizzes and coursework within D2L, and would handle any technical difficulties.

McNeal said that Morgan approached his responsibilities with enthusiasm, professionalism, and diligence.

“Over the years, I witnessed his ability to communicate effectively and work well with students, faculty, and staff,” she said. “I remember talking with him about graduate school when he was a sophomore, and I continued to encourage him to continue his education. I was thrilled when he told me about his acceptance to Georgia Tech.”

Morgan never thought he would go to graduate school, but now he is. Soon, all the knowledge, skills, and experiences he obtained at Coastal will work together towards earning a master’s degree. His graduate program has three specialized tracks for students—analytical tools (data analytics), business analytics, and computational data (data science). Morgan is still undecided on which track to choose, but believes that once he chooses, it will help narrow down on a more specific career. The program is online, which works great for Morgan. He currently works in the IT department of Southeastern Pathology Associates Labs (SEPA Labs). He will be able to take graduate courses while continuing to gain IT experience.

Best Kept Secret

For Morgan, the College’s best kept secret is the small classrooms, which allow for more one-on-one interactions between professors and students.

“When I was in the Python course, there were only eight of us. Dr. Renren Zhao (associate professor of mathematics) would walk around and make sure we all understood. He wouldn’t pass a concept until we all understood what he was teaching,” Morgan said. “There were other professors who also did that, like Dr. Syvillia Averett (associate professor of mathematics). When I took her linear algebra class, she would stop and make sure that everyone got it. If someone didn’t, she would explain.”

He also commended their time outside the classroom during office hours. For example, if he missed one of Zhao’s classes, he would go to his office hours, where Zhao reviewed the lesson.

“It seems every single one my professors in math, data, or STEM-related courses knew everyone around me. They knew our names. It added to the feeling that you belonged,” Morgan said.

Another bonus to having small classrooms was the small campus size. It encouraged Morgan to make new friends. He shared that in the beginning, going to college was very scary. He had some high school acquaintances at the College, but was essentially a loner. He started to make friends in classes, and his friendship circle grew from that point.

“At first, I was just alone and scared with no one to talk to until classes started. A lot of people are scared that they will be alone throughout their four years—I was too. It got easy to meet people at the college, especially when the campus is small—you really don’t have a choice. You can be a little socially awkward, and so is everyone else. However, that vulnerability meant that they were legit.”

He hopes students will see the benefit of stepping out of their comfort zone to make new friends.

As Morgan learns how to navigate both graduate school and work, he will find solace in some of his favorite hobbies. Morgan is a huge history buff. He loves watching the History Channel and random history videos on YouTube. He also enjoys building computers. In fact, his current computer at home is one that he built from scratch. Although Morgan will find himself busier come January, he’s greatly looking forward to learning how to balance it all.