Penn State President Rodney Erickson encouraged student leaders Saturday night to define Penn State culture at the start of the University Park Undergraduate Association Encampment weekend.
“All of us as leaders need to work on our culture and who we are and improving the climate for Penn State,” Erickson said. “It has never been more important for us to hear your ideas.”
Student leaders from more than 50 campus organizations met in the Beaver Stadium Recruitment Lounge on Saturday to kick off Encampment weekend, an opportunity organized by UPUA for students to engage and collaborate with each other on leadership.
The evening consisted of dinner and nine different lectures given by different speakers involved in Penn State or the community. Students were able to choose which three 45-minute speeches they wanted to attend for the evening.
UPUA funds Encampment weekend and according to the UPUA 2012-13 budget approved in April, the director of Encampment was allocated $10,000 in funds.
UPUA Director of Encampment Josh Wimble said he was allocated $9,000 in funds to use on Encampment after he took over the position of director, but had spent about $7,000.
During the event Saturday, women’s volleyball coach Russ Rose spoke to a group of students about lessons in leadership, including the importance of passion, that he has learned while coaching for 34 years at Penn State.
“Work hard and have a passion for what you do,” Rose said. “If you’re passionate about what you do, people are going to want to follow you.”
Though Rose spoke to students in a lecture format, Director of the Center for Women Students Peggy Lorah preferred students to pull their chairs together into a circle and discuss sexual violence and harassment in an open forum.
Lorah started by asking students what their opinions were on sexual violence and the Penn State’s culture. Students raised their hands and shared thoughts on the lack of education among both women and men on sexual violence and rape, and also the cultural aspects that surround the prevalence of sexual violence.
Before concluding the lecture, Lorah addressed the number of sexual assaults that have been reported this semester, after a student questioned the reasoning behind it. Lorah explained to the students that there isn’t any difference in the number of sexual assaults occurring compared to past semester, but there is more attention paid to them and reporting them than ever before.
Marie Heller, representing the Presidential Leadership Academy, said she was excited to listen to the speakers throughout the weekend and although Lorah’s lecture seemed least attended than others, she preferred the way Lorah talked with students in a circle.
“This way it feels less like a lecture and more like a conversation,” Heller (sophomore-English and French) said.
Lorah wasn’t the only one who preferred a more intimate talk with the student leaders.
State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham also asked students to move away from their tables and push their chairs closer together to have a better conversation. Goreham stressed how close students are with the community.
“Penn State and State College grew up together,” Goreham said to students. “There is almost an individual line between us and yet we are so separate.”
Goreham said the No. 1 problem the students and the community face is connecting better and being less alienated from each other. Goreham then opened up discussion to student leaders on State Patty’s Day and how the community and students can work together to make it more positive and safe.
Students offered comments and recommendations to Goreham on what they think is the biggest problem surrounding the student-run holiday, which is the influx of out-of-town visitors.
Encampment weekend continued on Sunday morning with brunch and smaller discussions facilitated by fellow student leaders on various aspects of managing a successful organization.
Rishi Mittal, the Smeal College of Business Representative for UPUA, talked about optimizing technology to build better communication within an organization, but also promote an organization through an effective website.
“We’re in the 21st century, so why not utilize technology that works?” Mittal (junior-finance) said. “Why not engage students on the platform they already know but in a different way?”
Wimble said he was pleased with how the weekend went, especially with the speakers that were able to attend and engage the students.
“[The speakers] were able to provide examples and knowledge and get students thinking about what they want out of [Encampment],” Wimble (senior-advertising and political science) said. “Conversation was not just about instruction but creating discussion.”