You can now listen to the latest episode of “Conversations with Student Affairs,” the podcast managed by the Student Affairs team at Penn State World Campus in collaboration with our many colleagues and partners across the University’s Student Affairs teams.
Title: Leadership & Involvement: Explore, Engage, Serve
Participating guests: Julie Fitzgerald, co-curricular program coordinator for Penn State World Campus Student Affairs, and Sabrina Smith, president of the World Campus Student Government Association and executive director of the Homecoming Committee
Summary: This episode explores ways to get involved with other World Campus students this fall. Involvement is a great opportunity to network and explore new ideas about the world around you and engage in discussions about important topics.
- World Campus Student Government Association — learn more about the WCSGA and find out ways you can participate in student government
- Student Organizations — explore the clubs and organizations open to World Campus students
- Student Leadership Conference — the World Campus Student Leadership Conference will be held September 28–30, 2022. You can attend virtually or in person at University Park.
Three interesting or helpful takeaways from this episode:
The Student Leadership Conference offers professional and personal development opportunities — as well as the chance to network with other Penn Staters. While you can attend in person if you’re able to, Julie notes that this year, some sessions will also be offered remotely for those who want to participate virtually.
World Campus students can get involved in many ways. There are a broad range of activities, organizations, and events that provide students with great opportunities to contribute both at Penn State and in their communities.
Connecting with your peers can help you establish a valuable support system. Your fellow students share some of the same challenges and questions you face and can often offer helpful tips or advice.
Catch up on all episodes:
Other Recommended Resources:
- Join Interest Groups and Get Involved with Student Organizations — this blog post highlights a few of the organizations you can join as a World Campus student
- Starting a Student Organization — if you can’t find an existing group that fits your interests, this infographic explains the process of starting a student organization
Podcast Transcript: Leadership & Involvement
Leadership & Involvement: Explore, Engage, Serve
JEN TOOF: Hello, and welcome to Conversations with Student Affairs. I’m your host, Jen Toof. I serve as the Assistant Director for World Campus Student Affairs. I enjoy the opportunity to bring topics and guests into our conversation. And today, our guests are Julie Fitzgerald and Sabrina Smith. Let’s take a moment to get to know our guests. Julie, would you like to introduce yourself, and then Sabrina?
JULIE FITZGERALD: Sure. My name is Julie Fitzgerald. Really happy to be here today. I’m the Co-curricular Program Coordinator for Penn State World Campus Student Affairs, which basically means my role is to help students identify opportunities that might connect them with other students, engage with other students, feel connected to the University, whether through clubs and organizations, leadership opportunities, service opportunities, and the like. So really, to try to create a well-rounded, enriching student experience.
JEN TOOF: Awesome. And Julie, you’ve been on here before, so we’re happy to have you back. And we have a first-time guest with Sabrina. Sabrina, would you like to introduce yourself?
SABRINA SMITH: Of course. Thank you, Jen, for having me on. I’m super excited to be here and talk with you guys today. For anyone that doesn’t know me, my name is Sabrina Smith and I currently reside in Tampa, Florida. I’m a third-year student studying journalism.
And when I’m not taking classes, I like to stay heavily involved with World Campus. I currently serve as the president of our Student Government Association, and I’m also the Executive Director of our Homecoming Committee. With that, I’m still involved with organizations like THON, AAUW, and ICMA.
JEN TOOF: Awesome. Thank you, Sabrina. I’m glad to hear how much you are involved with us. And for our listeners, sounds like Sabrina and Julie are really great connect points. So as we go through our episode, we’ll make sure that we put contact information out for our Get Involved tab, as well as Julie and Sabrina for anybody interested in Student Government Association or any of those organizations that you just mentioned.
And so Julie, you probably remember this from past episodes, and we like to really have a Get To Know You opportunity for our listeners and for our guests. And so we used to have the Toolbox for Success, the On the Corner, but this year, we are going to be focusing on skills and knowledge topics and outlining each areas in those segments. And so we’re still going to have our fun Get To Know You segment for our listeners. But as we navigate today’s episode, if you were expecting certain segments, we have a new format.
And so just want our listeners to hang in there. And also, we want to hear feedback from you. Do you like these new segments? Do you have additional topics or skills that you want us to focus on?
And so for today, we’re talking about involvement. And we’re also going to be talking about our Student Leadership Conference. And that conference and our Involvement Fair kick off at the beginning of the fall semester.
And so you just heard a little bit from Julie and Sabrina. But now, let’s get to know them a little bit more. And so Julie and Sabrina, I’ve got a couple of questions to get us started. And Sabrina, I would love to start with you, if that’s totally OK.
So we’re talking about the student conference and that students have an opportunity to attend in-person or through some form of online engagement as a Penn Stater. So if you could tell us what it feels like to experience University Park for the first time, taking in these Penn State experiences. So as you know, part of Homecoming, students might be coming for the first time in the fall for the conference, All-U Day, any of our different activities. What does that experience feel like for a World Campus student?
SABRINA SMITH: Well, even besides my first time, any time I get to travel up to University Park, it’s just really transformative and amazing every time I get to go there. I think I visited University Park for the first time actually at last year’s Student Leadership Conference, and I had such an incredible time.
And not only is the conference a great experience, but getting to be on the ground at Penn State, and seeing the University in-person, and touring the campus, and going to places like Old Main, and the Creamery, and the Lion Shrine, and getting to be a part and see all the places that in-person Penn State students get to experience every day, it really was transformative of how I looked at my University experience. I think it made me feel a lot more prideful than I was before and a part of the community that Penn State — that we are, in a sense.
And I can’t express enough what it’s like to be on campus for the first time and just how much it makes you feel a part of the Penn State family. And it really rounds out your university experience to be able to have those memories there. And it’s such bucket list item, I think, for World Campus students to do.
JEN TOOF: So this made me think of two questions for you. And I started at Penn State in 2013 at one of the campuses, and even the travel to University Park from Western PA — I always had a “I must stop here first,” or “I must get this picture first.” Do you have any of those, like once you get to campus, you’ve got to go here first, or you got to get this picture in while you’re here — make it a priority?
SABRINA SMITH: Definitely. I think my favorite picture I have from the Student Leadership Conference was when I got to take a picture in front of Old Main. We actually — we got a tour of the campus for all the students that attended the conference. And when we passed Old Main — I feel so bad for our tour guide — but I’m pretty sure every student wanted a picture in front of Old Main.
It’s just so iconic, and it’s what people think. And it’s beautiful that time of year. So I highly recommend. You got to get your Instagram photo there.
JEN TOOF: Nice, nice. Also, if any of our listeners watch college football and have watched any of College GameDay, College GameDay has set up on the Old Main lawn and completely made that the major display, as well. So definitely look up pictures online if you aren’t familiar with Old Main, or check out to see how it gets displayed, but it’s definitely one of those hallmark spots of, you just go there.
And I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to work in the building across from the HUB, which is right by Old Main, know nice walks during lunch could be had going down there, too. It’s so beautiful. And the tulips in the springtime are gorgeous in front of there.
Julie, so you and I have lived in the community for many years. So some of our students might frequent quite a bit or live in our local community. So let’s talk about local recommendations, if you have. So people who’ve been here quite a bit, what stands out for you of the local secrets or the local must-haves that you’ve been able to experience in your time?
JULIE FITZGERALD: Well, I definitely think that in addition to all of the iconic spots that we’ve already touched on, I think that being able to take in some of the beauty of this area is something that I really enjoy, like a hike up Mount Nittany, if folks have time to get there. Just spectacular. Not to mention, also, a really good workout.
But just some spectacular views, not only of Beaver Stadium and that area, but even surrounding Penns Valley and some other communities. It’s just really gorgeous and a great spot to check out.
We also have so many good restaurants and cafes. I mean there’s lots of good places to eat. I know Sabrina mentioned the Creamery, and that’s always something that even locals I don’t think tire of. And I know the Creamery has been mentioned on many podcasts already previously. So listeners are probably very familiar with that.
But yeah, I just really enjoy just the beauty of this area. And there’s just a lot of different venues to go hear music and different things like that. So I think that being open to just checking out new places and trying new things — lots of our restaurants are farm-to-table with goods from this area, specifically. And so I definitely think it’s a great place to just explore and find new things.
JEN TOOF: That’s awesome. When I think about fall, I think about going to the Arboretum. The Arboretum is just beautiful, and I love to take pictures.
And right around the time of the Student Leadership Conference, they should be getting ready to be putting pumpkins out and everything. So I definitely recommend the walk through the Arboretum for anybody coming on to campus. And there’s chairs there and benches to hang out, and quite a back view. So it’ll even be more festive around Homecoming time, as well.
JULIE FITZGERALD: I was also going to say, too, something else that I know when I had family that visited this area, for sports fans, the All-Sports Museum is awesome. I mean, it is really great. And they also have the ability to, on occasion, take folks up to a box level to check out over the field and whatnot. And those are some great pictures, as well, too.
So if there are Penn State sports fans, that’s a great thing to check out — the All-Sports Museum, which is right by Beaver Stadium. Lots of great memorabilia there and commemorative materials from different championship teams and such.
JEN TOOF: That’s awesome. That’s one thing I have not done, and I’m a major sports person.
JULIE FITZGERALD: Really?
JEN TOOF: Yeah.
JULIE FITZGERALD: I cannot believe that. Wow.
JEN TOOF: I know. I know. Julie, I’m going to have to connect with you offline — more specifics about that. I’m going to put that on my to-do this year.
JULIE FITZGERALD: Great. That’s awesome.
JEN TOOF: Awesome. So now, let’s go into our next segment. And we’re going to focus on our upcoming Student Leadership Conference. So it’s being held at University Park, and it’s being held for World Campus students.
So getting involved, student engagement, skill building, and networking are some of the direct paths forward that students like to work towards, setting goals. So when I think of this conference, Sabrina’s described that experience for coming on to campus. But there’s also that experience of the co-curricular aspect of bringing everything together, connecting with World Campus people, whether it’s staff or faculty, as well, when you come on to campus. So all these opportunities.
I think this conference becomes one of my favorite events because you’re face-to-face with students that, any other time, it might only be graduation or a certain event coming onto campus. So when we talk about all the stuff coming together, Julie, can you start off by telling us, what is the conference? What is the goal of the conference?
JULIE FITZGERALD: Sure, sure. Well, the conference this fall is September 28 through 30. As you mentioned, it is here in University Park. And we are also will be offering some sessions remotely as a hybrid experience for those that might not be able to make the trek here.
But I definitely recommend folks trying, if at all possible, to be able to attend in-person. In fact, there are some grants and things for those that might help support students — a stipend to be able to travel. And you can check that out on the website.
But I think one of the main things is, really, as you mentioned, it’s really about skill building learning about leadership topics that students can put to use right away. And put to use right away whether that be within their student organizations as their roles in student leaders, or perhaps in their jobs, in the workplace, or even in their communities. Because we know students — our Penn State World Campus students — are leading in so many different areas.
And so this conference is really designed to help provide more information and more resources to help build skills in things like conflict management, team building, communication, goal setting, all of these types of topics to really help you advance either yourself or your groups to reach whatever goal that you’re trying to do.
And a lot of that, also, I think comes into play where students meet other students, find common, similar interests. It’s not unusual for a student that might be brand new to World Campus to come to the Leadership Conference and then make these connections that then put them in a position to maybe be involved in student government, and take up advocacy, and learn how to work on behalf of their peers to bring about change, and really leave their mark on this institution.
I mean, I’ve been so amazed by so many World Campus students that have taken that up in the past few years to create things like opportunities with THON, or opportunities with Homecoming, or any of these kinds of things that are student-driven. And that’s really because of the connections students are able to make among them. And these high-impact types of experiences like a Leadership Conference you know that happened over a two-day period really allow for that to grow and to make those connections and really better our whole community.
JEN TOOF: Thanks, Julie. I had a previous supervisor who told me, events like this are a catalyst for enhancing a student’s experience, as well as their peers’ experience because it just starts the dominoes. Because Sabrina, you were able to come to the conference last year. And there’s all these opportunities that students come, they get generated with motivation and ideas and want to get involved.
But where do you go and put that into practice? And what can you do afterwards? So maybe it’s professional pursuits, or maybe it’s enhancing your educational experience. Sabrina would you like to tell us? And I’ll share a quick little sorry before I have Sabrina answer my question.
I’ll just say that we started off the conference last year with a really fun activity. And I won’t go into the activity in case we end up doing it again. But I will just say that engaging in a fun activity to break the ice at the beginning of the conference was one of the most wonderful things that, I think, we experienced last year.
And we’ll have an experience in-person, as well as one for our hybrid attendees online. But when we were getting ready for our conversation, I was chuckling with Sabrina a little bit about that activity. Because it put us all in the same place for engaging and breaking the ice with each other. So Sabrina, tell us about your student experience at the conference.
SABRINA SMITH: Definitely. I had such a great experience at the conference. Like I said, it was my first time traveling to University Park. I didn’t know anyone. I was traveling alone, and that’s the great thing about this conference is that most people are in the same boat.
We’re all coming to University Park, probably, for the first time. Or we don’t live here. We don’t know many people.
And we’re all meeting each other for the first time and having a great weekend, and listening to amazing lectures, and getting to have almost like I would call a mini vacay to be an in-person university student, which sounds weird because you don’t say, oh, I’m going on vacation to go play in-person Penn State student. But it felt like a mini vacation.
And I think the best time and what I got out of the Student Leadership Conference the most was meeting my peers in-person and connecting with them. And that was so wonderful of itself. I met so many friends that I took away after that conference.
And it’s funny how you mentioned that it’s kind of like a catalyst to sometimes get involved, or maybe you get a position in an organization. Because at last year’s conference, I met one of my, I would say, closest friends I have at World Campus, Dan Serfass And he was not in student government before, and now he ran to be Speaker of the Assembly, and he’s now Speaker of the Assembly for our fourth assembly.
And so it’s kind of cool now to actually, for me, to look back at that and see us meeting for the first time and now how close we are working together within our organization. So it’s really such a great opportunity. And I can’t stress just how much fun it is and how rewarding it is to see people in-person and finally getting that university connection that we sometimes don’t get as virtual students.
JEN TOOF: I love to hear that. And I also remember Dan being involved in an intense game of trivia, as well, at the conference.
SABRINA SMITH: No one can beat Dan at trivia. Any time anyone has a question about University Park, or Penn State, or State College, I just I give them Dan. I’m like, he is just a Guinness Book of knowledge about —
JEN TOOF: Yes, yes. So we definitely plan for more fun and games. I’m on the social committee for this year’s conference, and so we’re looking forward to continue that fun, also have a little bit of maybe that competitive edge to it for anybody who desires to have that. So any final things that you want to add about the conference before we switch into our next segment?
So one of the things I’m thinking about for those traveling in, University Park has an airport. We are easily accessible off major highways within about 20 minutes in Central Pennsylvania. We are in the middle of the state of Pennsylvania.
So Philly and Pittsburgh are other major cities, so if anybody is looking to expand, maybe, their Penn State vacation we’ll call it, Sabrina, for coming into town, there is the greater Pennsylvania population, if anybody is looking to explore that. So I think always about travel and lodging — we have hotels that are local in University Park as well as hotels outside.
But I’m thinking, Julie or Sabrina, any final things that we should add for our listeners? Or what would communications look like going out to students?
JULIE FITZGERALD: Well, communications about the conference — I mean, students will all receive an invite with more information about the conference. And it’ll include all the information about the lodging and the travel. I know students like Sabrina have been come real savvy about finding more inexpensive ways of traveling — different airports and then driving in and all of these kinds of things.
And so there may be ways that we can connect students with some of that information for a peer-to-peer kind of advice of, how do I get there and make it affordable, especially in this time of gas prices and fuel prices being so high? But nonetheless, students will receive all of that in their emails but certainly on the website. The Get Involved tab — there’s a Student Leadership tab that you can connect to about the Student Leadership Conference.
And that will have all the particulars in terms of the itinerary, the hotel lodging block, ways to travel to University Park. And certainly, if there are questions, or concerns, or anything like that, getting in touch with our Student Affairs Office just by mailing StudentAffairs@WorldCampus.psu.edu. We can help answer any of those kinds of questions.
I did also mention that there are travel grants that are available for students, and that information will be on the website, as well. So we really hope that finances aren’t a barrier or hope to not have it be a barrier for students participating either remotely or in-person.
Yeah, we really are excited about this. We’re excited with the last two years having been under COVID and having that. While we’ll still be mindful and having precautions in place and all of that it, we’re really excited that, hopefully, this is going to be a more normal conference of like what we experienced in 2019, pre-2020. So we’re just really excited about the opportunity and looking forward to having students participate.
JEN TOOF: And so we can direct our listeners — so we’ll put a link in our episode description, but Student.WorldCampus.PSU.edu and the Get Involved tab, and then look for the conference link on that web page?
JULIE FITZGERALD: Yeah, under Student Leadership. Under Student Leadership. And we can also, in the notes, put the link for the Student Leadership Conference site specifically, as well.
JEN TOOF: Awesome. Awesome. Sabrina, any final words about the conference before we get into our next segment?
SABRINA SMITH: I’ll kind of just go off of something that Julie said is that sometimes it is financially a little harder to fly into State College than it is other cities, and I’ve learned that. I will say, if need be, if anyone does fly into another city and then wants to drive up to State College, most of those drives, if not all — I haven’t taken all of them. But every drive I’ve taken out of, I think, either Philly or Baltimore, they’ve been the most beautiful drives.
And I love being able to see Pennsylvania and see all the back areas and the mountains. It’s incredibly beautiful. So I’m just saying, if anyone can’t fly into State College, I guarantee you there are cheaper flights to other cities. And renting a car and driving through Pennsylvania is a wonderful experience of itself.
JEN TOOF: So speaking of beautiful views, so I mentioned I was in Western PA at one of the campuses before. So the airport and the Beaver Campus were on the western side of the Fort Pitt Tunnel. So for anybody who’s seen a movie that has had Pittsburgh in it, there’s that shot of coming out of the tunnel and seeing the city and the big bridge that, if you want that view, fly into the Pittsburgh airport.
Because I can share with you having experienced that for four years before coming over to World Campus. So that view — you’ve shared with us the East Coast view, Sabrina, and I’ll put out there the West Coast view.
All right, and Sabrina, you’re up next to lead us off for our next segment. So involvement can take place in many different forms and opportunities. And you’ve shared what some of your opportunities have been. Can you share with us how getting involved has shaped your student experience?
SABRINA SMITH: For sure. I think getting involved has been essential to my student experience, to be quite honest. I can’t emphasize how much it’s made my time at World Campus, one, so much more enjoyable and rewarding and just all-around fun. One, you get to make friends with your peers that you normally wouldn’t.
Whether you’re going to an in-person experience, or you want to join a club or an organization, there are so many ways to get involved and meet other World Campus students, and become friends, and have that support system. I have so many group chats with all the friends that I’ve made here. And we kind of lean on one another, which university students in-person get to do. And it’s kind of part of that experience.
In addition, too, it gives you a way to have a more rounded university experience, I would say. I think — I love my classes at Penn State, but having organizational work and having my peers to talk to, it’s almost a little reprieve from finals, and tests, and papers. And it gives me — it gets me to have a voice at Penn State, and it gets me to have fun.
And it also gives me a lot of skills that you don’t normally get in a classroom setting, like leadership and teamwork, which is super important to be able to practice is that while we are in university before we’re headed into the workforce, or our career of choice, or whatever it may be. Those are essential skills that we’re going to need later in life. And a lot of times, we don’t get those in the classroom.
So I can’t stress that these clubs, and organizations, and different ways to get involved, they help prepare you for life after graduating, which is a huge deal. And I think we should all take that very importantly.
And also, connecting with peers and being able to go in-person, you get to experience Penn State traditions. You can go to homecoming, which is a huge experience, or find students to go to the White Out game with, if you like football. You can be able to go to graduation and just do so many things, go to THON, or whatever it is — just being able to fully feel like a Penn State student, no matter where you are in the world.
So that’s why when people say, why get involved? I’m like, why not get involved?
JEN TOOF: Exactly.
SABRINA SMITH: That’s just the fun.
JEN TOOF: And then get the picture in front of Old Main.
SABRINA SMITH: Exactly.
JEN TOOF: It’s a lifelong experience.
SABRINA SMITH: Oh, for sure.
JEN TOOF: So Julie, Sabrina’s talked a great deal about how this has shaped her experience. So how do students find opportunities? So we’ve mentioned our Get Involved tab, and I know we’re going into the new — fall is usually considered the new academic year. Tell us about the Involvement Fair, and where can students look for information? And how does this all come together at the beginning of the fall semester?
JULIE FITZGERALD: Sure. Well, the Involvement Fair is a really great opportunity for students to learn about the different clubs and organizations that exist and also connect with members from those organizations. The involvement fair is scheduled for August 31 in the evening, 7:30 to 9:00 PM.
And students can find out about that by looking at the calendar page on the website on that Student.WorldCampus.PSU.edu website. There’ll also be information in the newsletters and whatnot. But I think that it’s a really great opportunity to hear from students that are in the clubs and organizations talk about what their clubs and organizations are doing, where they’re hoping to head in the year ahead, what positions they might be looking to fill.
And I think, as Sabrina mentioned, it’s really — it can be very transformative just to build that network and that support network, find people that have similar interests. We know that a lot of our students are adult learners. They are working and balancing so many different things. But in many ways, these clubs and organizations provide an opportunity to help them network.
Many of our clubs and organizations are related to an academic interest or a professional field and really can be beneficial in building that network further for internship opportunities, job opportunities later down the road and as Sabrina mentioned, really, just building those skills that employers are looking for. We know that employers, through research, have these career readiness skills in things like teamwork, and collaboration, and virtual leadership. All of these things are important skills that our employers are looking for.
So I think getting out there and maximizing — I always like to say that students have an opportunity, by getting involved, to maximize their education. It’s not — it’s taking beyond what you learn in the classroom and having practical experiences to apply those lessons and identify students that might be in similar interests, in similar career paths that you might be looking for.
So I think that, basically, stopping in and checking out the Involvement Fair and hearing what students have to say and how you might be able to get involved is a great first step in making those first connections. It might feel a little awkward on a Zoom meeting, but I mean, most of our students are able to build that, and make those connections, and help bring people into their organizations to feel a part. I mean, that’s really what it’s about.
JEN TOOF: Thanks, Julie. And I’ve shared with our listeners previously that before coming in the World Campus, I was in a Res Life/Student Activities position. And one of the things that I always remember talking about students when starting the school year was, you can decide how much you want to get involved. So if you are looking to take that first step, it’s just jumping in and needing to give everything you got.
Because there’s a lot of commitments that are going on with, maybe you’re just starting on your educational degree path. Maybe you are on a graduate degree path. Maybe you are a caregiver or professional with many responsibilities that — it doesn’t have to look like jumping in and taking on extra responsibility. But what does it look like opening the door for connection, opening the door for that network, and then identifying, what’s in-line with your own goals and skill building that you want to do?
So I always tell a student, don’t be overwhelmed by looking at all these opportunities and think that it all falls on your shoulders. Think about it as taking that first step. We don’t all go at the same pace. We can have our involvement look in all different ways. And some students really enjoy being a part of many organizations or just being able to commit to maybe their meetings, or maybe attending one major event and helping plan it, or just attending and connecting with a smaller interest group.
So I always tell students not to be overwhelmed. Julie or Sabrina, do you have anything you’d like to add on to that?
JULIE FITZGERALD: Sure. I think that’s great advice. And I think I always tell students to really look at their co-curricular involvement much like they do their academic plans. So even thinking early on, hey, what are the kinds of experiences that I might like to get involved with? I mean, our new engagement app that’s going to be launching could really help students to identify many of these opportunities.
You might want to get involved in a club or organization to start. And then later, you might be looking for an internship, or maybe even study abroad, or maybe a research opportunity. And like you said, Jen, you don’t have to do them all at once. I mean, you can take different opportunities at different times, and all of them should be aligned to help you reach that end goal.
In many cases, these out-of-class experiences not only connect you with other students, but they connect you with staff and faculty. And many of those times, those connections can be helpful for references, or grad school applications, or any of those types of things. And I think all of us are really wanting to help students get to that next point in their life, whatever that is.
And these out-of-class experiences, co-curricular involvement really do help set students up for that next step. But I do think that having some intention somewhere early on in your academic journey — like, I might like to do this. What do I need to do to be able to do that later on in my journey? And thinking about that and talking about it with either a career counselor, or an academic advisor, or co-curricular program coordinator, or whoever. Like, how can I get to that next step in my journey? And I think these are all conversations we love to have with students and love to have them at any point early on, or near graduation, or whatever.
JEN TOOF: Thanks, Julie. Sabrina, same question, or you can start to share with us a little bit about the Student Government Association, and what does it look like if a student wanted to start, maybe, with general involvement that’s maybe not topic-specific? So based upon your experiences that you’ve been shared, but also this role that you have with student government — somebody who’s just looking to open that door or to dive in, what would that look like?
SABRINA SMITH: For sure. Well, for both of those questions, I feel like they actually kind of intertwine with my answer. So I actually — I mean, I am involved with a lot of organizations, but I didn’t just jump into all these organizations at once. And I remember my first year here as a student, I only joined one or two clubs as a member in my spring semester after I already had a full semester in, I kind of knew Penn State’s layout, and I felt comfortable to join.
And I was just a member and went to monthly meetings. And then in my second year is when I wanted to run for a few positions. I got more connected with people. And now, in my third year, I’m so honored to be able to be President of student government.
But it didn’t all happen at once. And it was it was a process of getting involved in so many organizations. And especially, if you want a leadership position in one of them, I don’t want anyone to feel intimidated of like, oh, my god — like just like you said — how do I do all this? I see these people, and they’re doing all these things.
But really, just start out as a member of a club that really interests you. And I guarantee you’re going to make so many connections and meet so many people that it’s going to bleed into other things about World Campus involvement. A lot of the organizations, all of the leaders of the organizations, we’re all kind of involved in helping one another and we’re all friends. So definitely, there is a lot of entertainment.
And with student government in general, for anyone that doesn’t know, student government is basically a group of World Campus students advocating and supporting our peers. We’re trying to make World Campus the best experience it can be for our peers and ourselves. And joining student government is a way to have your voice heard. And you can really get your voice heard.
Some people think, what can I do? We’re virtual students. What are we advocating or supporting for? And there’s a lot of answers to that. We’re raising awareness for any issues that might come up, or any inequality we feel, or anything we feel like might just add to our experience that we can bring to administration.
And it’s a great way to feel like you can make a difference and start to maybe get some leadership skills under you and teamwork skills. And also, it’s just a lot of fun, again, to meet your peers. If anyone wants to get involved, we’re always, always, always welcoming and looking for new assembly members.
You can join a committee. We have committees like technology, student affairs, academic affairs, governmental affairs, and our last one is marketing and communications. So any, I feel, path, or career, or degree that you’re looking at, you can get actual, practical experience in student government, which is, one, great to put on a resume, great to network, and great to get that practice. So really, like any type of help you want to do — if you want to join a committee, if you just want to join a monthly meeting and hear what we’ve been doing and just sit in and be a part of it, that’s totally fine.
I know Jen’s going to put our information in the podcast. But if anyone ever has any questions about student government, please feel free to visit our site which is WCSGA.PSU.edu. You can go into any of our social media, DM us, or you can even reach out to email me. And my email is super simple. It’s SabrinaSmith@psu.edu. And I’d be so happy to answer any questions that anyone had or talk about it more.
JEN TOOF: Thanks, Sabrina. So a final question because I’ve been removed from student activities for quite a few years now, does the student government across Penn State still get to connect throughout the semesters and have that opportunity for networking?
SABRINA SMITH: Yes, totally. So all the different student governments of all the different Penn State campuses, we actually do connect and talk. And there’s a conference coming up in the Altoona Campus, I think the first week of August, that I think 80% of our student government executive and committee chairs are going to in-person to meet other Penn State student governments and have a Leadership Conference of its own in that way. So there is ways to connect with people all over Penn State, not just World Campus, especially through student government.
JEN TOOF: Awesome. Thanks, Sabrina. I’m going to put you on our hot seat for closing out our episode. So we like to give — or we — I like to give our guests the final word. And because this has been a very student-centered and focused episode, I’d like to leave a final word from you for our listeners. And so what do these final words look like that you’d like to give to them?
SABRINA SMITH: I would just like to say, I can’t stress enough to get involved. Find a club. Find an organization. Go to an in-person experience, like Student Leadership Conference, or even go to your first football game, if you can. It’s so rewarding, and it gives you a more roundabout university experience that is just really, really enhancing throughout your years here at World Campus.
You get to meet new friends. You get to have memories and traditions that you’re going to look back on and be so glad that you were a part of it and not just only doing your classwork. These are the fun times and the fun part of university, I feel like.
And getting involved is such a great way to just fully enhance your experience. And I can’t emphasize it enough. And I really hope everyone listening feels a little motivated after this and maybe find something that they would want to do within World Campus.
JEN TOOF: Thank you so much, Sabrina. Thank you so much, Julie, for being on our episode today.