Penn State will host its first Engaged Scholarship Symposium today, which will feature a panel of experts and students to discuss the different engaged scholarship opportunities that are available through the university.

Careen Yarnal, co-chair of the council on engaged scholarship, said the purpose of the event, which will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. today at the Nittany Lion Inn, is to create awareness of engaged scholarship opportunities at Penn State because the experiences have proven to be beneficial for students.

Engaged scholarship includes internships, service learning, undergraduate research, study abroad programs, embedded travel courses and community-based research with an academic component to them, she said.

“This is a great opportunity for us to enhance students’ education at Penn State by making a concerted effort to give them one or more of these engaged scholarship experiences,” she said.

Yarnal said the idea behind engaged scholarship is for students to take theories and concepts learned in class and apply them in real life.

“We’re in a position to think about taking a leadership role in this notion of engaged scholarship,” Yarnal said. “Students see it is as being very valuable to their education and something that can really help them when looking for jobs.”

The event will be live-streamed, and it will feature a number of speakers, including Penn State President Rodney Erickson and a panel of students discussing their out-of-class experiences, Yarnal said.

Yarnal said Ken O’Donnell, director of student engagement and academic initiatives and partnerships at the California State University, will be the keynote speaker of the symposium and will discuss his experience with engaged scholarship at his university.

“California State has an even bigger system than us and they’re working toward providing these types of experiences for their students,” Yarnal said. “O’Donnell is coming to share what California State has been doing and some of the challenges they’ve faced.”

One student on the panel, Megan Draper, will talk about her time as a volunteer with the Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project in Borneo, Indonesia.

Draper (senior-psychology) said the Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project is both a research and conservation organization. She volunteered through Penn State and earned 12 credits during her time abroad.

“This is just one example of working globally through Penn State,” she said. “I feel really privileged to be part of the panel and to be able to speak.”

Tinamarie Illar, co-chair of the marketing and communications subcommittee of the council, said via email that the event will help bring together students, faculty and staff throughout the university.

“Those of us involved are truly excited about this inaugural event,” she said.

Alyssa Reddington can be reached at or (816)865-1828. Follow her on Twitter at @alyssaredd.