Allie Goldstein, a soon-to-be third year doctoral student studying higher eduction here, was selected to become the new student trustee by the governor’s office in June and confirmed for the role in July. Now that she’s had some time to settle into the role, having attended the Board of Trustees meeting at Penn State Schuylkill during Arts Fest, she answered 10 questions about herself, the vision she has for the board, and some other oft-discussed Penn State topics for us.
Onward State: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What brought you to Penn State?
Allie Goldstein: I am about to begin my third year in the Higher Education Ph.D. program at Penn State. Before this, I received my Master’s in Post Secondary Educational Leadership with an emphasis in Student Affairs from San Diego State University, and my bachelor’s in Communications from the University at Buffalo. I chose Penn State because it was a highly ranked program at a great institution within close proximity to my home (New York). It was the best decision I can recall making, and I haven’t regretted it for a second. Also of note, I have a dog named Wrigley, and both of us are pretty big fans of Penn State and Happy Valley (if you say “We Are” to him, he will bark twice!).
OS: Why did you apply for the role, and what makes you qualified?
AG: When I saw that applications were being accepted for the student trustee position I felt compelled to apply. I chose to pursue a degree in Higher Education because I am passionate about student development and the college experience. My background as a student at multiple universities, paired with my knowledge of higher education and my love of Penn State equip me with a unique perspective to bring to the board. I truly believe that universities have the potential to make incredible difference in students’ lives, and the decisions we make with regard to programs, interventions, and priorities can be the driving force toward ensuring student success.
I was really impressed with the student selection process. I thought about the amount of time I would be investing into my application, and potentially the position – I decided it was 100% worth it. If the committee determined that I was the student they wanted to serve in this capacity, I would be both honored and ready to fill that role. I know how much of a commitment the student trustee position is, and look forward to dedicating my time to building connections, hearing from the students, and representing the student voice on the board.
OS: Which student interests are you most concerned with representing on the board? Is there one that stands out above the rest?
AG: As President Barron said in the Governance and Long Range Planning Committee meeting last Thursday, that role of all board members is to serve for one purpose – the success of the institution – and not to represent any one constituency. I echo his sentiments but would include one additional expectation of myself: remaining present. I place priority on representing the student perspective when discussing issues of importance to the well-being of the University. I think it’s important that I remain well-connected with the student body so that if there are issues that need to be represented, I am both aware and able to do so.
OS: Joe Paterno’s legacy has remained a point of contention in the Penn State community and on the board. Could you explain how you view his legacy?
AG: My personal opinions on this topic holds little significance to my role as a member of the Board of Trustees. My focus is on helping to ensure the continued success of Penn State. I think it’s imperative that decisions be made with open ears and open minds. It’s impossible to not have, in some way, seen the positive impact Joe Paterno has left on Penn State and its community. Nonetheless, as someone who moved to the area after 2011, I realize that I was not here during an important time in Penn State’s history. It would be unfair to the University, its stakeholders, as well as the Paterno family, if my decisions and opinions were formed independent of conversations that have and will continue to occur.
OS: The last nine alumni spots have gone mostly to PS4RS-endorsed candidates, while 10 trustees remain from the November 2011 board. Do you have doubts about the board’s unity moving forward?
AG: I have been a trustee for only two weeks, so I am still too new to have been able to judge the unity of the board. However, my initial observation is that all of my fellow trustees feel a very deep sense of loyalty to Penn State, and we all are here to serve that greater good. I was really impressed with how welcoming everyone was and the different perspectives brought to the table by each of the trustees.
OS: What are your thoughts on the senate bill that would shrink the size of the voting board? As the bill stands, there is no permanent student trustee included.
AG: I have not thoroughly examined the Senate bill, and so do not feel informed enough to comment on its merits. I do hope however, that as governance conversations continue, the student trustee position will remain as part of the discussion. Like many of my peers, I see the benefit to having a codified student trustee position and the value of student representation on the board.
OS: What other changes do you think the board needs to see?
AG: I’m not sure I would necessarily classify this as a “change,” but I think the board should continue to strive to make well-thought-out, justifiable decisions, that adequately consider the various constituencies it represents. I heard a lot of this during my first meeting – questions about how tuition will impact certain students, to how representation should look on the board, to how alert systems will reach individuals traveling to different campuses. I was really impressed by the tenacity and preparation demonstrated by those present. The board should, in my opinion, continue to build a culture that encourages asking questions, and appreciates those who take the time to speak up and attend meetings. What excites me most is that by continuing to ask questions, and being open to hearing the perspectives of others, change can come from anywhere. At the risk of sounding cliché, all of us, not just members of the board, have a vested interest in and potential to positively impact Penn State.
OS: You didn’t get your undergraduate degree here. What steps will you take to make sure you represent undergraduate interests?
AG: As President Barron stated, the role of a trustee is to work for the success of the institution, and not represent any one constituency. My role as the student trustee is to look at the issues before the board from a student perspective, and give input from that point of view. Often times we assume that there is a “traditional college student,” but the truth is countless studies indicate no such student exists. We have professional students, part-time students, students of different races, religions, ages, sexual orientations, marital statuses, abilities, etc. – the one thing we have in common is our classification as student. While I may no longer be an undergraduate, and while I may not identify with all of the different characteristics the student body at Penn State represents, I genuinely care about making those connections, and hearing what matters to students from all different backgrounds. I am excited to work with the various student organizations, and to make myself available to those who may not be affiliated with any organizations, so that perspective I bring to the table best represents the diversity present at our institution.
OS: What’s your overall vision for your tenure as the student trustee?
AG: My overall vision for the student trustee position is still something I am in the process of developing. I realize that now is an exciting time for Penn State students, and that many people are interested in learning about my goals, vision, and intentions for filling the role of student trustee. This process, as of recent, has been a bit of a whirlwind for me, and I am both so excited, and so grateful to have this opportunity. Currently, I am focusing on transitioning into the big shoes left by the student trustees that have served before me. As I begin my tenure, I take with me the honor and humility I feel in being selected by the students to serve in this capacity. I look forward to serving with an open mind, and to making myself available to the student body so that students’ interests continue to guide the decisions made by the board.
OS: If you could be a dinosaur, which one would you be and why?
AG: I love cheesy jokes so you’re in luck.
Q: What do you call a dinosaur that never gives up?
A: A try-try-try-ceratops
I would definitely be a triceratops – cheesy and resilient.