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10 Questions With 2015 State of State Director Claudia Kotchick

The inaugural State of State conference was only a few weeks ago, but planning has already begun for State of State 2015. Claudia Kotchick was selected as the next executive director, and she has tons of ideas for bringing together community members for a day of conversation

Kotchick, a junior labor and employment relations major, was kind enough to take a few minutes and sit down for 10 questions.

Onward State: Why did you get involved with State of State?
Claudia Kotchick: I got involved with State of State at the beginning of my junior year after reading about the club in an Onward State article, coincidentally enough. I had worked the previous spring as a Sociology 119 teaching assistant and with World in Conversation on dialogue facilitation, so the concept of an open conversation was really important to me. I found the idea of opening a dialogue about the university to be exciting because it is something that almost all of my peers would have a vested interest in, but had never had a chance to have with a diverse group of Penn State community members before.

OS: Why did you apply for executive director of State of State?
CK: I applied to be the director of State of State because I was passionate about what the organization could ultimately do for the university and I wanted to play a strong role in that. State of State is fundamentally an organization that promotes creativity, innovation, and progress at Penn State while maintaining our history and traditions. It aims to include every entity within the Penn State community that wants a say in that progress, and I hope to be able to bring all of those bodies together to create a complete picture of our university.

OS: What is your vision for State of State 2015?
CK: My vision for State of State is that it can become a means to not only discuss progression for the university, but a platform to enact change. This year I plan to focus strongly on developing an action component with our speakers, utilizing the input from conference discussions, so that plans enacted after the conference are well-rounded and representative of multiple factions of the university.

OS: What changes or improvements are you looking to make in your new position?
CK: Again, one of the biggest changes I am hoping to enact as executive director is focusing on the tangible action component after the conference is held. This will involve selecting speakers and developing a plan of action regarding their topic ahead of time, and then modifying it based on suggestions from discussion groups at the conference. In this way, conversations about the “state” of Penn State are sparked, and hopefully we can work on developing some change to the issues posed.

OS: If you had one goal for State of State 2015, what would it be?
CK: If I had one goal for State of State this year, it would be getting even more people involved in the conference. In particular, more faculty, professors, administrators, and alumni. The generation before ours has been able to see progress within the university that we can only reflect on, and I would love for that perspective to be more represented at next years conference.

OS: What are topics that you want to see discussed at the next conference?
CK: The topics that we could discuss at next years’ conference are numerous. Personally, I would like to hear some discussions about the value in a liberal arts education and the structure of our education as it stands, interorganizational cooperation and competition, and address the drinking culture we have here at Penn State and Penn State’s outward reputation. However, these are merely suggestions. Ultimately, our topics come from our applicants and the ideas that they bring to the table.

OS: How can students get involved with State of State?
CK: State of State is a new organization and we are very excited to build our membership and new teams for next year. In the fall, we will put out an application for which students can apply for a variety of committees that all contribute in some way to our mission of creating a campus-wide dialogue. In the meantime, check out State of State at

OS: Alumni Hall was packed at the inaugural conference. Are there plans to expand or change the table-style setup to fit more people?
CK: We were incredibly excited to see the turnout at the inaugural State of State conference in March. We hope to expand attendance next year, and in doing so will have to rework out layout in several ways. This may include getting larger round tables or relocating to a larger room. We are still in discussion about the logistics for State of State 2015.

OS: If you could take any Penn Stater (past or present) out to dinner, who would it be?
CK: If I could take any Penn Stater out to dinner, I would have to choose Evan Pugh, the first president of Penn State. President Pugh had a very strong vision and belief in the university in his time, and I think he would be incredibly impressed to see what the university has become over the past century and a half.

OS: If you could be any dinosaur, which would you be and why?
CK: If I could be any type of dinosaur, I would be a Saurolophus because that is the kind of dinosaur Ducky from The Land Before Time was, and she was always the most energetic and kind. She was a favorite character!

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About the Author

Jessica Tully

Jessica Tully is a first-year law student at Penn State's Dickinson School of Law. She graduated in May 2014 with degrees in journalism and political science.

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