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Lyon Leaders: Armstrong balances student leadership, chemistry major

What do bagpipes and Greek life have to do with pharmacy school?

For Lyon College senior Daniel Armstrong, who just scored in the 98th percentile on the Pharmacy College Admission Test, they are part of the liberal arts experience. 

While his courses prepared him for the PCAT and graduate school, his level of campus involvement provided him with the interpersonal skills necessary to succeed as a pharmacist.

Armstrong, of Cabot, is a chemistry major who balances school and drug discovery research with his duties as the vice president of Mortar Board, organizer of the LEAD Conference, and as a resident assistant. In addition to playing bagpipes in the Lyon College Pipe Band, he also just finished his term as Zeta Beta Tau fraternity president.

“My level of involvement is pretty unique to Lyon. What I really like about this place is that it has such a tight-knit community. That’s how I’m able to wear so many hats on campus,” he said.

Armstrong did not always participate in so many areas of campus life.

“I did not consider myself much of a leader my freshman year. I did what I needed to do, but I was mainly here for academics.”

He was drawn to Lyon College because of the Pipe Band. He had been inspired to take up the bagpipes after hearing them for the first time at the College’s Arkansas Scottish Festival and learned from a tutor in Little Rock.

“I had already been playing pipes since I was 11, so I thought I would come play here,” he said. “My involvement in student leadership kind of blossomed from there.”

At the end of freshman year, Armstrong applied to be an RA because he thought it would help him get better at talking to people and connecting with them, skills he would need if he wanted to do pharmacy in the future.

“After that, I started Greek Life, which helped me be a leader among a smaller group of people I knew. I think that helped me become more confident and step out to do stuff like Mortar Board.”

Though unsure what he would get out of Mortar Board, he joined the organization and was elected vice president.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” he said, laughing. “So far, I have taken charge of LEAD, a day-long leadership conference. It’s been a lot of work running around, trying to get other Mortar Board members involved, and scheduling faculty members to come give a talk.”

The LEAD Conference will be held Friday, Oct. 25, and is a way for Lyon faculty and students to share lessons in leadership with high school students.

“It’s finally coming together. I’m excited,” Armstrong said. “There are going to be a lot of talks about inspiring leadership in younger people, such as a talk focused on math confidence.”

To balance his academics with his many leadership roles, he keeps a planner and sets a dedicated time for studying.

“I try to make academics my priority. I study from 7 p.m. until whenever I’m done,” he said. “After that, I’ll worry about all the other aspects of college life.”

Armstrong said one of the biggest lessons he has learned about being a leader is to “always make time for yourself, no matter what you’re going through.”

“Last year, I took cell biology and quantum chemistry at the same time and was also involved in a bunch of organizations,” he said. “It was rough for a bit.”

“I found when I was able to put everything down and take a second to breathe and go do something I enjoy, like hanging out with my friends, playing video games, or playing bagpipes it helped me relieve the stress and keep everything together.”

His proudest accomplishment is the progress he has made in piping. He attributes his success to Director of the Lyon College Pipe Band Jimmy Bell.

“I think I was mediocre at best when I first came here, but [Bell] whipped me into shape really quick. I’m currently going to competitions, and I’ve been winning pretty consistently.”

He plans to attend the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences after graduation and pursue a career in pharmacy.

“My leadership roles at Lyon have helped me be better at connecting with people,” Armstrong said. “Having leadership positions gives you a better idea of what people are thinking and what’s going on in their head.”

“I think that’s really important for a healthcare career, and I’m grateful to have gained that experience here.”