THON’s Man of Mystery: Barry Bram
Outside the spotlight of many organizations and famous people, there are often “behind the scenes” characters who help guide those in the public’s eye to success. This is how one might describe Barry Bram, the Senior Associate Director of Union and Student Activities in Student Affairs, and THON advisor. I’m sure that if you asked the committee members of THON who Barry Bram is, most would answer with a blank stare. However, if you asked the same question to the THON Overall Committee, and you would receive a very different answer. I sat down with Mr. Bram to find out who this mystery man really is. Out of the shadows, and into the light.
Onward State: You are the Senior Associate Director of Union and Student Activities in Student Affairs. Is the job as intense as the title?
Barry Bram: (laughter) I think universities tend to have these big titles, with a lot of words. But I love my job, which is getting to interact with student leaders all day long. The office is always loud and exciting.
OS: Can you explain exactly all that the job entails?
BB: I oversee the student activities. It encompasses recognition registration of student organizations, community service and leadership programs, center for arts and crafts, new student programs, and so on. There are about 15 of us here, and we all advise the student organizations.
OS: What is it about your job that keeps you here at Penn State?
BB: There are many things. I work with great colleagues. I’ve been working at Penn State for 17 years now, and for the first 12 years I worked in Residence life. I then moved to my current position to get more student interaction. Some people say that Penn State students tend to be apathetic. I have found the opposite of this. Whether they are involved in THON, other organizations, or working a job, I think the students here are extremely hard working. Lastly, State College is just a great community.
OS: How did you become involved in THON?
BB: I became the THON advisor in the summer of 2007, after the previous advisor left for another position. I volunteered, and it just happened.
OS: What are some of the responsibilities of being the THON Advisor?
BB: My role as an advisor is mutually determined by me and the members of the Overall Committee. I always view my greatest task here to make their (the overalls and captains) job as easy as possible. That’s not doing their job for them, but helping navigate them. I don’t play a decision making role in THON. It’s an entirely student run organization, and I don’t know if I could ever handle that task. I’m just a resource and advocate for THON.
OS: With THON only a few days away, what has your week been like?
BB: It’s really just been me just trying to as supportive as possible. There are some contracts that need to be finalized, and other decisions to be made. There is also a lot of excitement here, so I’m trying to soak it all up. I blocked off my whole day tomorrow to provide any help that I can.
OS: What will you be doing during THON weekend?
BB: (laughs) It’s actually funny, I don’t really have any specific roles to fulfill, but I will be there the whole time. I help get anything from the HUB for any of the committees. I will walk through the BJC, clearing anything that could potentially harm someone, and making sure that it is safe. I will be with Kirsten and the finance overall [Katherine Bird] when they calculate the total. Just providing any help that I can in the last four hours.
OS: This is your fourth year as the THON advisor. What are you looking forward to about this year’s THON?
BB: I think there are going to be some new things that are going to occur in the BJC that everyone will like. I won’t give them away, but I think everyone is really going to like it. We are also trying a new pass system, so I’m excited and anxious to see how it works. Hopefully it will help alleviate congestion on the concourse and give people more time to access the floor.
OS: What is one of your favorite THON memories?
BB: It was the first year I advised THON in 2008. It was five in the morning and we were setting up. It was my job to get the car we were raffling off, and drive it up to the BJC. It was snowing outside that day. As I was driving the car to the BJC, I saw hundreds and hundreds of students walking in the snow just to help set-up for this 46 hour event. When I was a student, I don’t think I would have gotten up in that weather. I will never forget that.
OS: Most importantly, Kenny G or Lady Gaga?
BB: (laughs) Kenny G.