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No time out

Athlete-engineer Chris Ruhl ’16 on balancing the demands of D1 football and MechE

The responsibilities and commitments of student-athletes are many – and when "engineer" is thrown into the mix, the challenge becomes even greater.

As a tight end with varsity action since his sophomore year, Chris Ruhl ’16 found time management to be the key to his success. Ruhl, a mechanical engineer, was team co-captain through the 2015 season. He graduated in December with a strong 3.70 GPA that earned him a spot on the prestigious 2015 CoSIDA Academic All-District Team.

Hailing from Huntington Valley, PA, Ruhl came to Lehigh in 2012 with his sights set on becoming an engineer. As he recalls, he heard from many people about the difficulty of maintaining an engineering workload while succeeding as a Division 1 athlete. With that notion planted firmly in his mind, Chris focused his competitive nature on the dual challenge of academics and athletics.

His success on and off the field required a significant level of dedication -- and offered very little "down time." According to Chris, tackling the engineering workload was all about filling the spaces in between classes, practices, and other commitments with productivity. Instead of going home after practice, for example, he’d go to dinner and then straight to the library to avoid the temptation of procrastination.

"Whether it was reading a chapter of a textbook or completing a few homework problems," he says, "using the time between classes helped reduce my workload after practice, which was a big help."

When he had time, Chris would attend office hours and extra study sessions; when he didn’t, he’d reach out to his professors and find other solutions. When asked about the relationships he maintained with his professors in the department, Ruhl attributes a large amount of his success to communication. “Flexibility and understanding is a two-way deal,” he says. “If you show that you care about the material and are willing to amend your schedule to fit everything in, professors here are willing to reciprocate the flexibility."

For Ruhl, succeeding as a student-athlete at Lehigh wasn’t about choosing which part of his life to favor, but rather about prioritization and balance with the goal of giving his all to both.

-Simona Galant '18 is a student-writer with the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science.

May 17, 2016

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