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State Of State Nails It With New & Improved Format

State of State held its sixth annual conference “State of Change” Sunday at the State Theatre and Hintz Alumni Center, implementing significant changes this year that elevated the overall experience and impact of the event.

The organization was founded in 2013 by Suzanne Zakaria and Patrick Boynton as an opportunity to “engage in the most pertinent conversations in town.” They wanted attendees to hear different perspectives on issues at Penn State and discuss them.

Traditionally held in the HUB’s Alumni Hall, the conference was always split into multiple “sets,” each taking on a theme and including a handful of speakers who shared their perspectives. These topics included sexual misconduct on campus, tradition and change, the value of your degree, and our community responsibility.

This year, State of State decided to revitalize the conference by nixing these themes, and the benefit was clear from the start. The speakers weren’t awkwardly sorted into themes that only tangentially related to their talks. As a result, they were each able to explore a topic they were passionate about and truly believed could improve Penn State and the student experience.

Rather than seeking speakers who fit into these specific boxes or categories, State of State was able to find the best candidates to speak about change in the Penn State community regardless of their specific intended topics. Speakers included not only University Park students, but also faculty, staff, World Campus, and the downtown community.

The organization then worked with their chosen speakers to further develop and refine their presentations in the weeks leading up to the conference.

It was evident how much time and consideration was put into each presentation. Every speaker was clearly well-versed and able to provide the 30,000-foot view of their topic, in addition to bringing it close to home with a personal perspective. Best of all, each presentation included specific steps and a call to action about how those in attendance — and the entire student body — could help the Penn State community improve the particular issue at hand.

My only complaint was that the talks were too short. I’m sure each speaker could’ve elaborated on their insight for at least double the time allotted — though I understand it would be a hard ask for people to devote a full day to the conference, especially considering the current format runs for nearly three hours.

I encourage you to watch the full State of State conference on the organization’s Facebook page and think about what you can do to advance the progress in combatting one of the issues discussed or another Penn State issue you’re passionate about improving.

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About the Author

Elissa Hill

Elissa was the managing editor of Onward State from 2017-2019. She is from Punxsutawney, PA [insert corny Bill Murray joke here] and considers herself an expert on all things ice cream. Follow her on Twitter (@ElissaKHill) for more corny jokes.

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