[LIVE BLOG] State of State Conference 2015

The second annual State of State conference will bring together community leaders and thinkers for a day of discussion about Penn State issues to create dialogue about the present and future of our university. It all starts this morning at 10:00 a.m. in Alumni Hall. You can watch the live stream above or follow along with our live blog below.

Live Blog

3:37 p.m. That’s all from another great State of State conference. We will have closing remarks soon and will be sure to let you know when all of the speaker videos are uploaded to Youtube.

3:35 p.m. “The phrase shouldn’t be We Are…it should be We Do….it shouldn’t be a map with different locations marked, but that each campus uplifts the Penn State message.”

3:30 p.m. Taylor is talking about a culture that he says results in students who don’t attend University Park being put down. He says that there’s “no reason to downplay” a degree from a Commonwealth campus.

3:24 p.m. The final speaker of State of State 2015 is Marcellus Taylor, the Coordinator of Student Activities & Fraternity/Sorority Life at Penn State Harrisburg.

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3:14 p.m. “There’s something that runners and change of campus students have in common. When you ask a change of campus student about their experience, they will tell you…I literally owe my job to the transition experience of change of campus students.”

3:12 p.m. Dan Murphy, the Director for Student Orientation and Transition Programs, is the second-to-last speaker here at State of State 2015.

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3:09 p.m. Shaffer describes the struggles transfer students have becoming leaders in their organization because of limited time and turnover. He wants to combat perception problems that students who transfer to University Park from another campus face. “Now, you may be standing there saying, well, I’ve spent my four years at University Park. Why should any of this matter to me anyways? I look at the timeless, but it is not a mantra or goal that we can call reached until we have this transition process as perfect as it should be.”

3:05 p.m. Who better to talk about the Commonwealth than CCSG President John Schaffer? The student leader is talking about transitioning from different Penn State campuses and the challenges they face.

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3:00 p.m. “Don’t tell us that we are not real Penn Staters when Abington raises so much money for THON. Don’t tell us that we are not real Penn Staters when we march up to Harrisburg and talk to our state legislators and senators and tell them why Penn State deserves more state appropriations. And don’t tell us we are not real Penn Staters when we walk across that stage with our diploma in our hand.”

2:57 p.m. Ajufo is talking about the Penn State Commonwealth system, which is undoubtedly one of the many things that makes Penn State unique. She is talking about all the wonderful things that Penn State Abington has done for her and “allowed [her] to find herself.”

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2:53 p.m. To kick off the “Commonwealth” set, Penn State Abington president Awele Ajufo is up first.

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2:29 p.m. Clark told a powerful story about a freshman year rape incident (only the upcoming Youtube video will do it justice, so I won’t try). She describes the confusion she felt in its aftermath, and the importance of listening to each other. “I’m here to remind you to listen.”

2:23 p.m. The final sexual misconduct speaker will be senior and Lion Ambassador Maura Clark.

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2:19 p.m. “Even the frattiest of frat stars would agree with the core against sexual assault.” Combs says he wants to focus on the messaging around campus about sexual assault.

2:15 p.m. The next student speaker is former IFC President Dan Combs (described by the MC as “the coolest person I know.”) He is also a member of Men Against Violence at Penn State.

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2:09 p.m. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve been drinking, but some people still blame themselves and worried about other people blaming them. It’s not sexual assault if you’re partying and leading someone on. You can’t lead someone on….when alcohol is a factor, there’s often a whole lot of victim blaming going on.”

2:05 p.m. Jennifer Pencek, the programming coordinator of the Center for Women Students, is the second faculty speaker of the afternoon.

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2:00 p.m. McCleery is telling a few personal stories about close calls and incidences of sexual misconduct downtown on weekends. “I lost count of how many people who have told me they were sexually assaulted at Penn State when it got to 30. And that was two years ago.”

1:57 p.m. “It is not uncommon at frat parties for men to to demand to see a woman’s boobs if she wants to get a beer….It is disgusting and you are shocked and you are 18 years old and you are just out of high school and you can’t believe that someone said that to you. But after the 3rd time, the 6th time, the 12th time you’re asked to that, the behavior becomes normalized.”

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1:54 p.m. Penn State senior and Onward State writer Melissa McCleery is up next. McCleery chairs UPUA’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Awareness Roundtable.

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1:50 p.m. Dr. Peck is talking about the difficulties that come with talking about sexual misconduct. Peck recommends a toolkit on the Rock Ethics Institute website as a good place to start. Peck helped develop the resource through the PRISM research group, of which he is the director.

1:41 p.m. We’re back after an extended lunch break to talk about sexual misconduct on campus — an important topic on any college campus. Professor Andrew Peck is first up.

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12:16 p.m. Tenny is talking about the important of friends helping their friends when they see signs of mental health issues or other problems. “We don’t have a choice if we have an impact on the people around us. What we’re choosing is what kind of impact we have.”

12:12 p.m. CAPS counselor Bystander Intervention Initiative coordinator Katie Tenny will be the final mental health speaker before the lunch break.

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12:08 p.m. “How many people have to die before we take this seriously? Those struggling with depression are not seeking attention. They are not simply misunderstood. They are not crazy or insane and they are not weak. They are sick and I’m sick and I need your help.”

12:04 p.m. Penn State junior Sarah Kidder is the next student speaker for mental health, giving an emotional rundown of her battle with depression. “In a very literal sense, my illness can be terminal.”

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11:56 a.m. Locke views mental health as a continuum, with a wide range of symptoms. He says that 51% of students say they’ve felt “overwhelming anxiety” within the last year. Locke describes a problem on college campuses where demand almost always succeeds supply for mental healthcare, and the inequity in healthcare spending. Particularly, funding for campus mental healthcare is too low to treat every student who needs help.

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11:50 a.m. Who better to speak about mental health than the people who treat it every day? CAPS assistant director Ben Locke is now speaking about the growing mental health needs in college.

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11:48 a.m. Jacobs is talking about her personal struggles with mental illness, from childhood through her time at Penn State. “I know I’m a stronger person because of it. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last few years.”

11:42 a.m. The first speaker after the breakout discussion is Lion Ambassador Julia Jacobs. She will kick off the mental health module this morning. “One in four young adults ages 18 to 24 have a diagnosable mental illness…this is quite literally our problem.”

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11:09 a.m. Mehta is explaining the necessary steps to solve problems and engage with each other. “We do not publish so we can fill gaps in the literature. We publish to present knowledge that stands on the shoulders of giants.”

11:02 a.m. Engineering professor Khanjan Mehta is up now to finish the student engagement topic.

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10:54 a.m. Senior and Marshall Scholar Ryan Henrici is speaking now. “Early involvement is crucial,” Henrici says, for academic success. “Because of our size we have the most opportunities for students from any background to succeed.” But Henrici says so many opportunities can be overwhelming.

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10:52 a.m. “There is no other institution in the country that is approaching engaged scholarship the same way Penn State is.” Bram sets the date of 2020 to get Penn State as the best engaged scholarship institution in the country.

10:49 a.m. “We want Penn State to be the leading public higher education institution for undergrad engaged scholarship. That’s a grand vision. It’s great and we’re shooting for that,” Bram said. “Number one, we want to engaged scholarship to be part of the ethos, just like student engagement is part of what people talk about when they talk about Penn State. Athletic excellence is what they think about when they think about Penn State. We want engaged scholarship to be something Penn State is known for.”

10:41 a.m. Student affairs administrator (and well-known student advisor) Barry Bram is next to speak about engaged scholarship.

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10:39 a.m. Mirable says the administrator-student relationship is a lot like the elephant and the rider: the elephant as the administration, with vast resources and veto power in they don’t like the direction things are going, while the student, the rider, with a unique perspective and the driving power. “Do you feel like you’re part of a partnership? Let’s get the elephant and the rider talking and engage on bold new visions and partnerships together.”

10:36 a.m. “Administrators subscribe to the school of thought that giving students room to grow is a formative experience for them, but it’s also a way to leverage their seemingly limitless manpower, fresh ideas, and healthy disregard for the impossible.” Mirable has four main themes that he says are consistent across the university within administrator and student relationships: student empowerment culture, practical resources, training and transitioning, and willingness to collaborate.

10:33 a.m. Former THON Donor & Alumni Relations director Dom Mirable is up next (although the moderator was quick to add that he would not be “that THON guy talking about THON.”) Mirable is set to speak about how student organizations can better engage and partner with administrators to augment their mission.

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10:31 a.m. Krishnan ends her talk with a question: “What’s your Penn State buzz word, and what engagement do you feel with your education that truly makes you feel like you’re making an impact today?”

10:29 a.m. Lion Ambassador and UPUA Rep. Anjali Krishnan gets things started as the first student speaker in the Student Engagement set. Krishnan, who grew up in several different countries, describes the difficulty of finding her passion when so much of her energy was spent trying to find her place in each of her new homes. She says she found her passion at Penn State.

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10:22 a.m. Alley is talking about the power of science and technology in a civil society to help build communities. “We can build something that is so good and so forward-looking. We can screw it up, but we can live in a different world that will power everyone essentially forward.”

“If you bring commitment and purpose, the future is very bright. Make sure you use [technology] to bring yourself up.”

10:18 a.m. One of Penn State’s most eccentric and distinguished professors Richard Alley is first up. “Our knowledge lets us be here. Our knowledge helps us get along with each other. but we must care where we’re going and we must know how to do it and we must get along.”

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10:12 a.m. The conference is underway as State of State Executive Director Claudia Kotchick gets things started. “Today is an opportunity for us to come together as friends, neighbors, peers, and colleagues, to discuss our university.”

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10:08 a..m. The second ever State of State Conference should begin any minute here in Alumni Hall. Follow along all day through 4:30 today as we hear from speakers from all parts of the university.

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About the Author

Kevin Horne

Kevin Horne was the editor of Onward State from 2012-2014 and currently holds the position of Managing Editor Emeritus, which is a fake title he made up. He graduated from Penn State with degrees journalism and political science in 2014 and is currently seeking his J.D. at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law. A third generation Penn Stater from Williamsport, Pa., Kevin is also the president of the graduate student government. Email: [email protected]

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