Student Leadership Conference

Molding Leaders for a Lifetime

Penn State students come to Altoona for Student Leadership Conference
By: Marissa Carney

Penn State has long been committed to not only preparing students academically for their careers, but to molding confident and upstanding leaders for the workforce and community.

One way the University has accomplished this is through the successful annual Student Leadership Conference. Penn State Altoona was the proud host of this year’s conference, “Lead. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.” held Aug. 4-6 on the campus.

Founded in 1964, the conference brings Penn State student representatives together from across the Commonwealth. Participants attend workshops aimed at enhancing their decision making, group dynamics, conflict management, and networking skills, which they can then take back to their respective campuses and put into practice. Further, students gain an understanding of their own leadership values and philosophies.

Says Danielle Fry, director of Penn State Altoona Student Life and conference committee member, “Part of our mission is to build good citizens. It’s not just enough to be good at your job, you have to people skills. To me, leadership never stands by itself, it’s connected to community and reaching other people. A lot of the conference focuses on where students fit into that bigger picture.”

The conference rotates through different campuses each year. Fry is pleased to host once again, seeing it as an opportunity to show off the campus along with faculty, staff, and community members, all volunteering their time to share with students their successes, mistakes, and experiences as business and community leaders.

This year’s conference featured several guest speakers including: Ray Mastre, PwC SAP Security and Controls Consulting Director; Susan Russell, University Park; and Jonathan U. Dougherty from James G. Davis Construction Corporation. Students also participated in breakout sessions, fitness activities, a fun evening at DelGrosso’s Amusement Park, and a formal dinner. “It’s a lot about who you know, not what you know that gets you to the next level, so the conference gives you the opportunity to learn how to network and make connections that last,” says Asher Carr, a senior from Penn State Altoona. This is Carr’s third year participating in the conference, an experience he clearly values. He says he’s learned a lot about himself through the program, especially how to build confidence. “I learned quickly that you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable because that’s when you really grow. I learned how to challenge myself.”

Each of the Commonwealth campuses were represented at the conference by up to twelve students who were selected by an application process. A program such as this gives them a chance to build on what they are doing academically. “Not everything to be learned can be learned from a book,” states Fry. “Some of it is just life experience, trying things, making mistakes, and learning to work with people. The conference really focuses on taking advantage of opportunities, putting yourself out there and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone.” Adds Rebecca Pennington, director of Student Affairs at DuBois and conference committee member, “The skills that leaders build at events like this, and also in their roles as leaders at their campuses, are extremely important for their future careers. Employers seeks employees who are well-rounded, can lead, manage their time, and delegate responsibility. Students who are involved outside the classroom in activities such as clubs and organizations, athletics, leadership programs, such as this conference, and the many other opportunities offered at our Penn State campuses are in a much better place to find employment and be successful.”

Committee members enjoy watching the students grow, noting after just three days they begin to develop a sense of autonomy and become more forthright about asking questions or asserting their own opinions.

Amanda Butler is a senior who attends the DuBois campus. This is her first time at the conference. She is excited to share what she learned and watch her knowledge spread to others. “My peers and I will be able to take back what we’ve learned to our campus and share with others so they can then share with even more people, so it’s just going to domino and have an even greater affect.”