10 Questions With State Of State 2019 Executive Director Clare McHugh
State of State annual conference was founded to discuss some of the most pressing and important topics in the Penn State community. Since 2013, the organization has tried to use its platform to elevate the importance of dialogue on campus and in downtown State College. As the young organization moves forward without its founding members, it will be interesting to see how new leaders of the conference shape its reputation and legacy.
Junior Clare McHugh will head next year’s conference, so we talked to the incoming Executive Director about her plans, goals, and more for State of State 2019.
Onward State: Why did you first get involved with State of State?
Clare McHugh: I first joined State of State in my sophomore year when I saw committee member applications pop up on my Facebook feed. That year, I was a member of the Special Events committee where I was exposed to the many of the yearlong efforts of State of State. I was able to see the passion that people had not just for the organization, but for the university. Following that year, I applied to a director position and this year served as Special Events director, which is now referred to as Engagement.
OS: Why did you decide to apply to/accept the position as Executive Director?
CM: Having been involved with State of State the past two years, I have fostered an ever evolving perspective for the organization and the university. Through my time on a committee then as a director, I was able to grasp the passion that every individual involved in State of State had toward using the organization as a means of change within the university. I am passionate about my school and the community it fosters. I knew by bringing this passion to the Executive Director position, I could encourage more of Penn State to place their voices into the conversation about making this community, our home, a better place.
OS: What is your vision for State of State 2019?
CM: I envision State of State 2019 to be a point of growth for the organization. With such a great mission, State of State has the ability to continue to grow in the Penn State community. I want to work more with other organizations to ensure the voices of all Penn Staters are within the Penn State community have an opportunity to be heard. This year is set a great precedent, which I hope to build upon to grow the organization. I definitely feel that this year taught me a lot about what can be done to improve the conference and grow it into a prominent piece of Penn State.
OS: How do you hope to change or improve upon State of State with your new position?
CM: This year, the State of State executive committee to a very critical look at our organization and its growth over the past five years. After spending that time reviewing the organization from an internal perspective as well as externally with our post-conference feedback, I have a lot of changes I hope bring to next year’s conference. It is again all about growth and looking at how this conference can always be improving to better suit the needs of Penn State.
OS: What is your top goal as Executive Director?
MC: My top goal for State of State 2019 is growth. The organization has such amazing potential and an amazing message that many Penn Staters resonate with. This year I am aiming to implement different changes that will allow the organization to continue to grow with the university. I believe the changes I make next year should be those that will allow the organization to be able to thrive for years to come and continue to make an impact on campus.
OS: Although it’s early to guess, what do you think/hope will be discussed at State of State 2019?
CM: The voice of the university is constantly shifting. One day we are talking about the protests outside the HUB the next we are discussing the importance of tradition. It is almost impossible to predict what and who will be featured next year. As an organization, State of State is always seeking to discuss those issues most pertinent to the community, and I hope to continue to allow that tradition to develop.
OS: What changes do you plan to make to the setup of the conference, if any?
CM: I think one of the most difficult parts of the conference is the length. That has been a constant criticism we have received and definitely one of the things I will be looking at when planning for next year’s conference.
OS: How can other members of the Penn State community get involved in State of State?
CM: Any and all members of the Penn State community are welcome to become involved in State of State. Our organization is more than just a one-day conference. By saying State of State is more than just a conference is implying and promoting the idea that the organization truly seeks to foster a community among the members. We have a team of directors and committee members that are the foundation for running the conference. These positions, open to both graduate and undergraduate students, are great opportunities to become involved in the planning of the conference and the year-round efforts to keep the conversation going. Furthermore, State of State is always reaching out to members of the community looking to hear their voice contribute to the conference. This year at the conference we had a slip to fill out if you wanted to become more involved with the organization. We also had a post-conference feedback form that the Penn State community could fill out to provide the organization with more insight.
OS: How do you think this year’s Executive Committee will differ from those in previous years?
CM: As with any organization, a transitioning executive team will be very different than any that came before it. State of State is unique in that not all of the members of the team have been involved in the organization before. However, I definitely welcome these new voices and opinions who will bring changing perspective to the organization. I look forward to seeing what the new team will bring to the organization.
OS: Finally, we have Onward State’s classic question: If you were a dinosaur, which would you be and why?
CM: Velociraptor. I always thought they were pretty cool.
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