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Putting the ‘You’ in PSU

by Emma Schwendeman

Penn State’s presence on a national level is hard to miss these days. Ranking No. 2 in the AP NCAA poll. Producing tons of Astronaut, Goldbright, and Fulbright scholars. Shaping advocates for pediatric cancer research through THON. These accomplishments are nothing short of incredible.

But when focusing the magnifying glass to State College alone, that larger focus narrows to the actions of individual students. They go to class. They attend office hours with professors. They maintain a social life with friends. They participate in a variety of organizations. But are they engaged enough?

Student engagement has become the standard on campus. From the new space in the HUB to the Student Engagement Network, the value to participate in new and meaningful ways is in high demand. Jobs and graduate programs don’t just want to see the cookie-cutter work anymore, and the university is recognizing the need for resources to think outside the box. It is shaping us to be the best in future career paths, but can also dishearten where you are and where to go if you don’t quite know your purpose yet.

All of this leads me back to one question: Are we engaged enough?

Many in the State College community tend to say we are not. They say we stick to our lanes in our technological-based worlds and neglect the responsibilities adults should have. For some, we are involved enough in this year’s mayoral election, a historical event that impacts where we live for most of the year. We don’t engage and listen in on the important conversations that impact lives, like cultural diversity or sustainable development. The membership in clubs and organizations waivers week to week with the stress of exams, of friends, and of personal needs. The motivation to engage is gone.

Yet last week alone, we saw 934 students sleep in tents outside Gate A to cheer on our Nittany Lions. Each year, we raise millions of dollars to pediatric cancer and more than 700 dancers stay up for 46 hours without sitting or sleeping. Peaceful protests outside the Allen Street Gates have increased the past year, especially since the 2016 presidential election. More people are making their way to the happiest of valleys each year for the best education possible.

Ultimately, student engagement is yours to define. You are in charge of putting “you” into PSU. While the prospects of state of the art amenities and increased awareness helps, there has not been a doubt in my mind that Penn State students aren’t living up to the national hype they get.


State of State is an annual conference presented by the Penn State community for the Penn State community. By bringing together innovative speakers and community leaders, State of State create a dialogue on the present and the future of the University. This post is the first in a series of weekly guest blogs from students involved in State of State.

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About the Author

State of State

Founded in 2013, State of State is a student-run organization at Penn State University, committed to facilitating a dialogue within the university community about important Penn State-related issues. This dialogue culminates every year in a spring conference at which we bring together student, faculty, administration, alumni, and community leaders to speak about a variety of Penn State and State College topics, ranging from student life to mental health to town-and-gown relations. Our goal is to bring together passionate change-makers who can make our community stronger and more successful. Join this ongoing conversation “by Penn State, for Penn State” at our ​year-round special events and in February for our annual State of State conference.

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