What Makes Penn State Great: Mitchell Wilston’s Senior Column

I spent my time at Onward State photographing and writing about the many great people and accomplishments of Penn State University.

I gotta tell ya, it was a pretty fun gig.

Being an Onward State photographer was a dream come true. I’ll never forget the thrill of being on the sideline of MetLife Stadium as the football team prepared to take the field for the first time this past season. Then, I got to be right in front of the team as they sang the Alma Mater after the first home game — a beat down of Eastern Michigan. Flash forward a couple weeks and I’m biting my nails when I was supposed to be taking pictures during the quadruple overtime win over Michigan. Those are memories that will stay with me forever, but they only begin to scratch the surface of what made my time here so amazing. Penn State’s a great place for reasons outside of athletics. Heck, we are sending a robot to the moon. That’s pretty incredible.

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There’s a lot that makes Penn State special: The athletics, a beautiful campus, great academics — the list goes on and on. But, if I’ve learned anything in four years, it’s that it’s not the Lion Shrine, Old Main, Beaver Stadium, or the blue and white football uniforms that make Penn State great. It’s the people.

I had the chance to meet Penn State’s very own Indiana Jones, an English professor who consulted for Hollywood, Afro-kid, and the nicest mailman in the world. Sure, it’s awesome when Christian Hackenberg throws four touchdowns in a game, but I’ve always been impressed by the other things that happen around here. Like when a kid trades a pen for a pick up truck, the countless start ups that Penn Staters are responsible for (Weebly, the Smart Purse, and Purple Planes, to name a few) and though I’ve already mentioned it, the fact that we are sending a freakin’ robot to the moon.

Take a walk around campus and there’s always something going on. It could be a pick up football game in front of Old Main, a Quidditch match behind the IM Building, or, if you’re lucky, you might even see a squirrel wearing a little hat. The point is (incoming freshman, pay attention) there’s something here for everyone. It doesn’t matter how unique your interests are.


What’s most impressive is that so much of the culture here isn’t really even about Penn State. It’s about helping others. It’s an amazing feat that a bunch of students can get together and raise $13,343,517.33 to help fight childhood cancer. THON is just the tip of the iceberg. There are tons of other on -campus philanthropies; even our football coaches raise money for charity.


It’s not that our football team is better than Pitt’s (it is), not that our wrestling team is the best in the country (it is), not that we have the largest alumni organization in the world (we do), and not that we have one of the prettiest campuses in the country (we do). It’s not even that we have the largest student-run philanthropy in the world (we do), not that our football coach has the best selfie game in town (he does), and not that we have one of the best research universities in the world (we do).

Penn State is great because We Are.


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About the Author

Mitchell Wilston

I apologize in advance.

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