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THON Director Thursday: Meet THON 2020 Tech Director Dan Herlihy

Name: Dan Herlihy
Major: Computer science with a cybersecurity minor

Past THON Experience:
THON 2017 Rules & Regulations Committee Member
THON 2018 Technology Captain & Springfield Communications Chair
THON 2019 Technology Captain
THON 2020 Technology Director

Name an interesting, weird, or quirky fact about yourself:

I can whistle through my teeth! I do it absent-mindedly, and it really freaks some people out when they notice.

What made you want to apply for the Technology director position for THON 2020?

I’ve been involved with THON since my freshman year. My captains and directors have been amazing individuals who have helped me to improve my technical skills and grow as a person and a leader. I’ve also been a member of Springfield, and I’ve had the opportunity to form
relationships with their four paired families. I wanted to apply to be the Technology Director to help improve THON for the families and all of our volunteers. I also wanted to help instill a passion for THON in others and foster those individuals into future leaders of the community.

What are your responsibilities as the Technology director?

My job is basically to be a middleman between Tech and the rest of THON. Tech has five teams: Dash, Special Projects, Systems, THINK, and UI/UX. Each of them is responsible for a different aspect THON’s digital resources so when someone in THON has a project, I help them contact the right team and then I let my captains do their thing! Besides managing the committee, I am responsible for handling THON email addresses and generally making sure THON is taking advantage of the latest and greatest technology!

What do you want to implement in your position this year that’s unique and differs from years past?

This year, we’ve had the opportunity to work with huge tech companies like Amazon and Microsoft to help improve THON. With Amazon, we’re able to build our sites faster and more securely. With Microsoft, we were able to introduce all captains and directors to the same platform to improve communication and collaboration across Committees.

We’ve also been working with R&R to implement some big improvements for THON Weekend like portal closures on tablets. Another cool thing THON Weekend is going to be our use of telepresence robots! Every year some families are unable to attend THON due to treatments and other factors. With these robots, they’ll be able to call into THON, control a robot on the floor and have a video chat with anyone who’s down there!

What makes the Technology committee so cool, fun, and/or important?

Tech is responsible for building and maintaining all of THON’s websites, so that means we’re able to interact with people from every committee and many different parts of the university. Many times when people come into their positions, they will have goals and visions that involve building a new feature or improving an existing one on some of our sites. So, when we complete a project, we’re helping bring someone’s dream to life. It is an incredible feeling to watch something you’ve built being used by others to solve problems.

What are the overall goals you hope to reach with your committee for THON 2020?

The goal of Tech is always to support the rest of THON. We want to give everyone else the best possible tools and resources to perform their job quickly and easily. Every year, we want to improve the services we offer so people can do their job better than the year before. If people leave this year thinking things are better than they were, I’ll consider it mission accomplished! A big specific goal of mine is improving transitions. Every year people need to hand passwords, files, accounts, emails and more to their successors. With so much going on, it’s easy for little things to be forgotten. I want to automate as much of the transition process as possible so when it comes time to switch over, all the new people can be added and all the old people can be removed quickly easily and no one will need to worry about forgetting things! Another side goal is to end all the hilarious “Pass System is down” jokes that crop up around this time of year. Since we switched to Dash two years ago, we haven’t had any issues or down times during THON Weekend. I’m hoping with a third uneventful year (knock on wood), the jokes won’t be relevant to anyone who’s here in the fall!

Why do you THON?

My why has grown so much since freshman year. I joined originally because THON seemed like a great place to make friends and contribute to a good cause at the same time. In the last four years, I’ve met Four Diamonds families and volunteers and seen the impact that THON has on people’s lives. I THON to support the families who are struggling with cancer. I THON to help build a home for people here at Penn State. I THON to find a cure for all those currently affected, all those who will be, and in memory of those who were taken away too soon.

What’s your favorite THON memory?

Springfield is paired with Taiven and his family. When I first met Taiven, he had recently gone through several procedures. It was difficult for him to run around, talk, or even smile. In the past four years, it has been amazing to see him recover and become a normal, energetic, smiling kid. It’s truly incredible to me to see the changes in him and his family as they’ve become closer to Springfield and THON.

Per Onward State tradition, if you could be any dinosaur, which one would you be and why?

I think I would be a stegosaurus. I don’t know a ton about dinosaurs, but this was the consensus among the people I asked and it feels right to me.

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About the Author

Mackenzie Cullen

Mackenzie is a junior majoring in English and one of Onward State's associate editors. She is from Minersville, PA, and is always trying to explain exactly where that is. Send all compliments to [email protected] or @MackenzieC__ on Twitter.


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