THON Director Thursday: Meet Alumni Engagement Director Rick Melli

It’s that time of year again. THON 2017 is 141 days away, captains were selected, and committee members were interviewed. But who’s running the show?

Here’s the first installment in our weekly THON Director Thursday feature, which will spotlight one director each week until THON. Meet Alumni Engagement Director Rick Melli:


Name: Rick Melli

Committee: Alumni Engagement

Major: Finance


Past THON Experience:

I was a Dancer Relations committee member for two years and then a Dancer Relations captain. Now, I am the THON 2017 Alumni Engagement Director.

Name an interesting, weird, or quirky fact about yourself:

I was once on Nickelodeon! I played a video game on the TV show Nickelodeon Gas for one episode!

What made you want to apply for the Alumni Engagement Director position for THON 2017?

I think that there are a few moments in life that I would define as “aha moments.” Moments in which something finally clicks, you are shaken to the core and your life takes a pivot into a different direction. One of these “aha” moments for me occurred in the first few steps that I took on to the floor of THON my freshman year. I knew in that moment that I had found my purpose at Penn State and it was to make as much of an impact on this organization, these families, and this fight against childhood cancer. That is a big part of what leads me to get more involved in THON year in and year and out and why I wanted to be the Alumni Engagement Director. There are many individuals that have these “aha” moments within THON during their time at Penn State, but they lose the spark once their time at Penn State ends. I wanted to have a direct impact on reigniting that spark that love for THON, and bring them back into the fight against childhood cancer. There is still so much room for growth and innovation left in this committee and being involved in building the foundation of this committee is truly an honor.

What are your responsibilities as the Alumni Engagement Director?

As the Alumni Engagement Director, I work with my 16 captains on various projects throughout the year dedicated to giving our alumni the tools to continue to fundraise and spread awareness for THON. We work throughout the year on different alumni campaigns, alumni newsletters and other communications, and initiatives to engage our student body of seniors on campus as they transition to being alumni. We also focus a lot of our time on the obtaining new alumni donors, benefitting them properly for their donation, and retaining them as donors for future THONs. As the director, I am working right along side my captains in the execution of all of these activities, having my hand in a little piece of all of them.

What do you want to implement in your position this year that’s unique and differs from years past?

Alumni Engagement 2016 did a wonderful job of laying a great foundation for the future of Alumni Engagement in the first year of the committee. It is now up to my captains, their committee members, and I to continue to build upon that foundation. I am focused on giving our alumni tangible ways to remain involved in THON beyond simply donating to our cause. I am constantly working with our team to bring that “State College feeling” to where ever our alumni may currently be through more targeted communication and a growing presence in the alumni community. On an internal basis, I am also very passionate about enhancing the committee member experience and giving them leadership opportunities to truly help the Alumni Engagement committee in our quest to reach as many Penn State Alumni as possible.

What makes your committee so cool, fun, and/or important?

I think the fact that our committee is so new makes it really cool. I see the Alumni Engagement committee as having so much untapped potential and will be a major growth agent for THON in the coming years. I always joke that getting involved now is like investing in Google in its first year. This may be a little bit exaggerated, but I truly do believe that it has the potential to grow tremendous as we continue to build a name for ourselves with our alumni and provide them with more opportunities to remain involved with THON after graduating. As our alumni are so dispersed around the country and world, it is also a unique committee in the fact that our connection to these individuals will have a tremendous impact on spreading the mission of THON across the country and across the world!

What are the overall goals you hope to reach with your committee for THON 2017?

As discussed previously, I want to provide alumni with tangible ways to remain involved in THON and do everything in our power to transfer that feeling of being in State College to wherever they may be now. I am hoping to expand our campaigns offering to our alumni, making our communication even more targeted and specific to certain segments of alumni, and growing the awareness of our committee and our capabilities across the Penn State campus. I also am focused on enhancing both our donor and committee member experiences in order to properly retain our external donors and our internal volunteers.

Why do you THON?

What I think is so amazing about this organization is the reason why I THON is always changing. There are not too many organizations that you can get involved with that it is difficult to pinpoint your involvement to one specific reason. I believe, in the end, it always circles back to the people I have the pleasure of meeting. My fellow volunteers are some of the most genuine, inspiring, and hardworking individuals that I have learned from and will continue to learn so much from in the future. The previous leaders of this organization have been my role models for my years at school and those who I strived to live my life like. Finally, most notably, the families have had a direct impact on me. They all show so much strength and passion that it is always pushing me to keep on fighting and battling through even my toughest days. I THON, and will continue to THON, for all of those amazing people that this organization brings together!

What’s your favorite THON memory?

One of my favorite THON memories occurred my sophomore year as a Dancer Relations Committee member when I was lucky enough to be on the floor for the final four hours. It just so happened that at the time the dancers were instructed to sit and the total for that year was revealed, I was standing next to my dancer. To see her face when she was finally able to sit down, knowing that she was able to stand for 46 straight hours made me so happy. To see her face when the total was revealed and have her know that it was all worth putting her body through that left me speechless. I always find myself replaying the moment in my mind when I think about THON.

Per Onward State tradition, if you could be any dinosaur, which one would you be and why?

I would be the biggest dinosaur that there ever was. My dinosaur knowledge is a little rusty, so I am not sure exactly which one that is. As a shorter individual, I would just love to know what it is like to be super tall like that. Hopefully I would be able to start a dinosaur basketball league and dunk all over all of the other dinosaurs.

About the Author

Elissa Hill

Elissa is a junior public relations major and the managing editor of Onward State. She is from Punxsutawney, PA [insert corny Bill Murray joke here] and considers herself an expert on all things ice cream. Send questions and comments via e-mail ([email protected]) and follow her on Twitter (@ElissaKHill) for more corny jokes.

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