10 Questions With State Of State 2017 Executive Director Megan Zuccato
State of State, the annual conference featured on campus each spring, is a student-run organization committed to facilitating a dialogue within the university community about important Penn State-related issues. The organization aims to bring positive change to the Penn State community by connecting students, faculty, alumni, and community leaders in conversations ranging from mental health to financial issues.
The 2016 conference, “Exploring the Glory,” addressed topics like body image, the gender gap, and student involvement under the guidance of Tess Hamsher, the former State of State Executive Director. Hamsher is now passing the torch to 2017 Executive Director Megan Zuccato.
Zuccato, who is studying chemical engineering in the Schreyer Honors College, sat down with us to answer 10 questions about her experience and vision for State of State 2017.
Onward State: Why did you get involved with State of State?
Megan Zuccato: Coming from a family of Penn State grads, I had a huge amount of Penn State pride before I was even a student here. I stumbled upon State of State at the involvement fair during my freshman year, the same year as its inaugural conference. Speaking with one of the founders, Patrick Boynton, I discovered that the mission of the organization really spoke to me. I felt strongly connected to State of State’s philosophy that if you love something, you should try to make it better. State of State aims to do just that by bringing students, faculty, alumni, and community members together to share their perspectives on problems we all face as Penn Staters, and I wanted to be part of that. I applied and was chosen to be on the content committee.
OS: What made you apply for Executive Director?
MZ: State of State has made my time at Penn State so rewarding and meaningful, I really could not imagine these past three years without it. I know that I will be able to dedicate the long hours necessary to leading a growing organization, and I am very proud to take on that responsibility as Executive Director. As one of the two people who have been with State of State since the beginning and are not graduating this year, I felt it was my duty to step up and do my part to continue my organization’s success and hopefully expand it even further.
OS: What is your vision for State of State 2017?
MZ: Primarily, I want to maintain the high quality of our annual conference and continue to reach more and more members of the Penn State community with our content. In terms of expansion, I would like to prioritize Community Engagement, especially with the off‐campus community, the commonwealth campus communities, and possibly even the World Campus. Now that we are an established group and have a great network of connections on campus, we need to engage the rest of our community that isn’t encapsulated in University Park to be truly representative of the entire Penn State community.
OS: What changes or improvements are you hoping to make in your new position?
MZ: I don’t have any drastic changes in store for State of State this year. I think the most important thing for us to improve is our presence on campus. There are still a lot of people who have never heard of State of State or don’t understand our mission, so I hope that we can reach more students and faculty this year by promoting special events as well as our conference.
OS: What is your number one goal for State of State 2017?
MZ: My biggest goal this year is to fill Alumni Hall for our annual conference in February. The past few years we have been inching closer and closer to filling every seat, so I think with some creative PR campaigns and content that really resonates with the Penn State community, we can reach this goal.
OS: What topics do you hope or anticipate will be discussed at State of State 2017?
MZ: Honestly, this will mainly be in the hands of the 2017 content directors, with input from the rest of the yet‐to‐be‐chosen executive board. To guide their content search, we will be trying to gauge interest that the Penn State community, especially our partners, shows in different topics. We also encourage members of our community to get in contact with us if they feel strongly about a particular topic they’d like us to discuss! Personally, I would like to see our content team pursue topics surrounding the Penn State drinking culture as well as the influence of social media in higher education.
OS: What changes do you plan to make in the setup of the conference this year, if any?
MZ: In our post‐conference reflection this year a really interesting idea was brought to the table that would allow for a lot more interactive discussion during the conference. It is definitely something that the executive board and I will consider when planning State of State 2017. However, the general setup of the conference will remain the same as our past conferences, with round tables set up before the stage in Alumni Hall to facilitate discussion.
OS: How can other members of the Penn State community get involved in State of State?
MZ: In the fall we will be accepting applications for all of our committees. There is a place on our team for anyone who believes in and wants to contribute to State of State’s mission. In addition, driven students who want to share their perspective with the Penn State community can go through the application process in November to speak at our annual conference. And finally, we invite everyone to join us at the special events we hold throughout the year, such as panels and interactive activities, as well as at our conference in February!
OS: How do you think this year’s Executive Committee will differ from those of the past two years?
MZ: We’ve done some slight restructuring for this year’s executive board, and I think it will make each director, and the board as a whole, operate more efficiently. As new roles such as Community Engagement Director are evolving, we will have to communicate very clearly about each director’s responsibilities, and I think that will bring us even closer and make us more collaborative as a board.
OS: Finally, if you were a dinosaur, which would you be and why?
MZ: I think I would be the one from Jurassic Park that spits poison in Newman’s face because I might look cute and harmless, but you probably shouldn’t underestimate me. (Okay, I googled it and that dinosaur is called dilophosaurus and most likely did not actually spit poison but I stand by this answer because I love Jurassic Park.)
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After losing my father to cancer, I thought there was nothing THON could offer me that I didn’t already know. After four years, I found comfort in the familiar.
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