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THON Director Thursday: Meet THON 2021 Communications Director Conor Barber

Name: Conor Barber

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Past THON Experience:

THON 2018 Communications Committee Member
THON 2019 Communications Independent Dancer Couple Liaison
THON 2020 Communications Organizations Coordinator

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

I was Troy Bolton in my sixth-grade “High School Musical Jr”. performance.

What made you want to apply for the Communications Director position for THON 2021?

Being a part of THON is such an indescribable experience. It’s an opportunity for the Penn State community to come together as one in the fight against childhood cancer. Throughout my time at Penn State, I have had the chance to be a THON committee Member, captain, organization member, and dancer. Each unique opportunity has meant so much to me and holds memories that I will cherish forever.

All of that being said, I left each experience feeling as though I needed to continue to do more to play my part in THON’s mission. This feeling is what really pushed me to the role that I am so fortunate to be in this year. Being the Communications Director gives me the platform necessary to make an even greater impact in the lives of children and families.

What are your responsibilities as the Communications Director?

As the Communications Director, I lead a team of 21 incredible Captains who are all dedicated to ensuring the THON Community is being supported in three different facets: Organization Development, Education, and Outreach.

Organization Development provides decision-making support to THON Chairs as they lead their organizations to success throughout the year. Education aims to ensure that THON’s volunteers are properly educated about THON and its history to be able to serve as advocates and
ambassadors of THON’s brand. Outreach focuses on recruitment of the Penn State student body as well as outreach to faculty, staff, and other groups in the University looking to be involved in THON. Essentially, it is my job to always be a resource to all of THON’s student volunteers.

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

This year, we are actually planning to implement Freshmen Involvement Committees led by Communications Captains that start at the beginning of the Spring semester. This is a new idea that I know we are all really excited about. Freshmen are often unaware of the opportunity to get involved
with THON until after the application window closes or they hear about it from a peer.

Typically, missing this deadline would mean that you would not have the chance to become a THON Committee Member
until next fall semester. The Freshman Involvement Committees will give freshmen that missed the application the chance to still be a part of THON 2021. Applications for these committees will go live later in the Fall semester and into Winter Break.

What makes the Communications Committee so cool, fun, and/or important?

If you talk to anyone I know, asking me this question is typically a mistake because I will typically go off about Communications and why I love it so much for far too long, but I’ll try not to do that here. When I think about what makes THON so special, one of the first things that pops into my head is the people and the passion that they have for our mission.

From the organization members to the captains to the committee members to the THON Chairs, each of them has their own very unique THON experience, yet we are all still tied to the same mission. Communications has the privilege to bring all of those different experiences together to form one of the most powerful communities that I know of: the THON Community.

What are the overall goals you hope to reach with your committee for THON 2020?

The overarching goal that I hope to reach with Communications for THON 2021 is to empower every student volunteer we interact with to make their difference in THON 2021. What’s special is that no two interactions in this look the same.

For THON Chairs, it could mean providing them with all of the information that they need to successfully fundraise and engage their members. For prospective volunteers, it could mean pointing them in the right direction to begin their THON experience, whether that be joining a Committee or a THON Organization. For current volunteers, it could mean teaching them more about THON and Four Diamonds so that they are able to spread our mission beyond the bounds of Penn State. No matter what the interaction may look like, I want each student to know that they have the chance to leave their mark in THON 2021.

Why do you THON?

I THON for the Noah Frysinger Family. My organization, Lion Ambassadors, is paired with the Frysinger Family and I’m so thankful to have the chance to connect with them and learn more about their story. Although we haven’t been able to see them as much lately with the pandemic, knowing the impact that Four Diamonds, THON, and Lion Ambassadors have had on their lives is something that motivates me every day.

Additionally, four out of five childhood cancer patients survive their battle, but we must keep fighting until that one day becomes five out of five. All children deserve the chance to enjoy their youth and live out their dreams and I THON so that one day, this is the case and we’ll dance in celebration.

What’s your favorite THON memory?

My favorite THON memory was from THON Weekend 2020. In my role for THON 2020, I had the privilege to be the Communications Liaison to some of THON’s highest fundraising organizations. Throughout the year, I got to help them through the highs and lows that arise and see them persevere in
those tough moments.

During the organization totals reveal, seeing their totals go up on the screen and knowing that their hard work and dedication to THON’s mission had paid off brought me to tears because I saw firsthand all of the hard work and dedication that they put into the year. Being able to be a small part of helping them succeed in that moment was such an unforgettable experience.

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

Pretty embarrassed to admit that I’ve actually been looking up dinosaurs now for like an hour because I wasn’t really one of those dinosaur kids growing up, but I think I’m going to settle on Gallimimus. One source said they like to “hang out in the flocks” which makes them seem like they’d be cool to hang with.

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About the Author

Mackenzie Cullen

Sadly, Mackenzie graduated from Penn State in 2022. She majored in English and served as one of Onward State's associate editors. You can keep up with her life and send compliments to @MackenzieC__ on Twitter.

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