10 Questions With New Homecoming Executive Director Claudia Bonilla
Although Homecoming weekend — and the now-legendary win over Michigan — was only a few weeks ago, it is already time to move toward planning Homecoming 2014.
On Monday, Claudia Bonilla was named Homecoming 2014 Executive Director. We met up with Bonilla, who served as Homecoming 2013’s OPPerations Director, to ask her a few questions about her new job.
Onward State: What does “For the Glory” mean to you?
Claudia Bonilla: I consider myself extremely blessed to attend Penn State. I am part of such an amazing community and can’t imagine being anywhere else. Whenever I think of “For the Glory,” I think of the day I officially enrolled at Penn State, and the commitment I made to the University.
“For the Glory” is a reminder of the Penn State standard, and how we are capable of going as far as all of the people who lived in Happy Valley before us. “For the Glory” reminds me of the potential and the aspirations of every Penn Stater, and how we are closer to meeting our goals every day. For the Glory means that, no matter where you are, you will always carry the Penn State name with pride and integrity.
OS: You’ve been involved in Homecoming since freshman year. What have you seen thus far that you plan to improve?
CB: Homecoming strives to celebrate tradition and instill pride in the Penn State family throughout the year. We enjoy welcoming our alumni, as well as their friends and families, during Homecoming week, but I feel we have not done a proper job on celebrating Penn State, or Penn Staters, year-round. I would love to see a connection between our community and alumni that extends beyond Homecoming week.
OS: What do you want to continue to do well?
CB: Homecoming has a healthy competitive environment, and I want to continue to foster that among organizations involved. The Competition Committee always has a way to challenge these participants, and every year they continue to grow and surprise us with the events they come up with.
OS: What skills have you developed from being an active member of OPP — for both Homecoming and THON — that will give you an advantage as Executive Director?
CB: Being on OPP gives you a perspective that not many people get to see, and that is the reason I fell in love with it. You have the chance to develop an event for the entire Penn State community from basically nothing. If there is one thing that OPP has taught me, it is the value of teamwork.
OPP has a healthy disregard for the impossible, and we make the impossible possible because we work together. On OPP, everyone counts, whether it be by having ten amazing captains working our Homecoming events, or more than 700 volunteers. Homecoming is a big team, and acknowledging the need of every single person is key to our success.
OS: What is your favorite event of Homecoming weekend?
CB: My favorite event is Legacy Celebration, and it’s actually in the spring. It’s the first event we have, and you see how excited everyone is to be involved. It’s a small event with a big personality, and every year the Pride Events Committee puts a different spin on it. If I had to pick a Homecoming Week event, it would be the FTG Talent show, mainly because students come up with really creative numbers, but also because I’m a terrible performer. Anything and everything that happens on stage amazes me.
OS: What was your initial reaction when you found out that you had been named Executive Director?
CB: Bobby [Walter, Homecoming 2013 Executive Director] had said he was going to call around 6:00pm, and my phone rang at 5:47. I considered letting it go to voicemail, but I remembered my voicemail is in Spanish, and that always catches people off guard. I picked it up and all I said was “stop.”
I told my captains first because they’re the main reason that I applied. They’re an amazing group of individuals and they inspired me to do so much more than I did this past year. It’s been a couple of days, and I’m still in disbelief that I have the honor of working for Penn State Homecoming for another year!
OS: You’re from Puerto Rico; was your family big Penn State fans, or did you come here on a limb?
CB: With the exception of a cousin, all of my family is in Puerto Rico, and me going “abroad” to study was not something my family talked about much. My parents both studied in Puerto Rico, so I turned to my neighbor, a UPenn alum, and he gave me all the pros and cons of every school I applied to. At first, Penn State was a back up plan, but I fell in love with this school the moment I came here. I only deemed myself crazy for picking Penn State the first time I saw snow my freshman year. I had a small heart attack.
OS: If you could be in charge of any other organization on campus, which one would it be?
CB: I wouldn’t trade Homecoming for anything in the world, but if I could be in charge of the Clown Nose Club I would be so happy. I had never looked into being on another Executive Board, so I did my research on different organizations and the mission and philosophy of this group is very refreshing. I’m crossing my fingers in hopes that I can join them at some point before I graduate.
OS: If you could take any Penn Stater (past or present) out to dinner, who would it be?
CB: I think it’s awesome that the slinky inventor, Richard James, went to Penn State. I would like to take him dinner because I had so many slinkies as a kid. I’m pretty sure I could still be entertained by one. Slinkies are a funny and quirky thing to be known for, and I’m so curious what made him think of that. I really hope I am someday known for something as meaningful as a slinky.
OS: If you could put a “Penn State Lives Here” sign anywhere on campus, where would it be?
CB: I would put a “Penn State Lives Here” sign on the HUB. The HUB is the heart of many student activities, and it always has people getting coffee, studying, or just hanging out. It hosts so many students a day, and is home to so many organizations that really make Penn State special.