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10 Questions With THON 2022 Executive Director Kate Colgan

Kate Colgan, a senior studying public relations, recently made headlines after becoming THON 2022’s executive director.

She has been involved with THON since her freshman year at Penn State. Her THON experience began on the Rules and Regulations committee, and she later then moved up to become a fundraising safety captain for two years. Colgan served as THON 2021’s Fundraising Safety director.

We (virtually) sat down with Colgan to learn more about her position and plans for THON 2022 and beyond.

Onward State: What was your reaction when you found out that you had been selected to be executive director?

Kate Colgan: I was so incredibly grateful to be able to lead this organization that I love so much! I was so honored that I was selected and that they felt that I was someone who could lead this organization, and incredibly humbled. It didn’t feel real, but I was so humbled and honored. I’m so excited for what this next year will bring and the visions that I have for THON.

OS: What do you plan on doing differently from years before?

KC: My overarching goal is to continue in the efforts of making THON a space for everyone and making it somewhere that everyone can call home at Penn State. Continuing on our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and continuing to make it a more welcoming space for everyone, and that’s not a simple task or a one-size-fits-all answer. But I am definitely looking forward to making it a space that everyone can love as much as I do.

I’m prioritizing that, as well as just continuing in our fundraising methods. I come from Fundraising Safety, so I’m so excited to see the THON community give back and continue to create those meaningful relationships for our volunteers.

OS: Do you feel a big responsibility coming in to planning a THON that seemingly will be back to normal?

KC: I think like anything in the past year, it will provide a challenge, but it’s something that I’m excited about. I was astounded by the way the THON community adapted throughout this year, and I know that they will do the same thing for this next coming year.

I feel a responsibility to make sure that our events are safe, in all aspects, ensuring that we are still following whatever mitigation protocols we need to. I think we suspect that it’s not instantly going to return to normal, so I am looking to prioritize ensuring that we are still mitigating the spread of COVID-19 at our events, even when things are looking better. Especially since a big part of our THON community is our families that a lot of times have children that are immunocompromised.

I’m not concerned about returning to our in-person events. I think we have learned so much over the past year, and we have some really cool elements that we’re looking to incorporate into our events from virtual events and make it more inclusive.

OS: Do you plan to keep any of the elements that were implemented during THON 2021?

KC: Definitely. I think, speaking to THON weekend specifically, we saw so many benefits to the way that we did things. We were able to include people from all over the place, that even on a normal THON Weekend, wouldn’t have been able to make it to State College.

We were also able to celebrate so many of our different stakeholders that wouldn’t normally be able to, and especially our families. Our families were celebrated so much more during this THON Weekend than we’d ever seen before, so I want to be including some of those aspects, definitely.

OS: What motivated you to apply for the executive director position?

KC: I definitely didn’t go from being “not a volunteer” one day to being the executive director another. I’ve gradually increased my involvement every single year. I have just loved being part of this organization so much, and it’s truly my home at Penn State. It’s my passion. I got to the end of this year of my involvement, and like I have every other year that I’ve been involved, I asked myself what was next for me.

I expected to get to the end of this year and feel that I had given all that I possibly had to give, but I didn’t. I still felt that I had more work to do and more to contribute, that I hadn’t yet given all of myself to this organization. So, I decided to take a chance and see if I was the right person to lead this organization for the following year and give my all to this cause.

I felt like there was more work to be done, and I was someone who could do it.

OS: Is it intimidating to not know what the future looks like for THON? Does it present any challenges in planning?

KC: I think if you had asked the person in my position this question a year ago, the answer would be very different. I think as I’ve been on the executive committee this past year, I’ve seen how THON runs when you don’t really know what the future holds. So, I’m not too concerned about that, because the THON community has adapted to this world where we don’t know what the future holds.

One of the really incredible things about this year is that we adapted and created procedures for creating events in a virtual space, which we’ve never had to do before. So, I feel like now we have two playbooks for THON: one for traditional events that we’ve always held in person, and this incredible new virtual playbook that we can use.

OS: What do you look forward to in the position?

KC: The THON community has so many passionate and dedicated volunteers that will be right with us again next year, so I’m looking forward to seeing the creative new ideas and the passion that these volunteers bring to THON 2022.

OS: Do you have any other campus involvement?

KC: THON is really my big one. I’m involved in a couple of honors societies, but THON has really been a home for me. I knew I wanted to give as much of my involvement time as I had when I came to Penn State. It has certainly kept me plenty busy at this point, so THON is my main activity.

OS: What made you want to get involved with THON when you came to Penn State?

KC: I was involved in Mini-THON when I was in middle and high school, and I got involved with that because I’ve grown up around THON. My cousins have been involved in the organization for my whole life, literally. My first THON was when I was two years old, so I’ve just grown up going to THON weekend, and as a kid, it was something that I loved so much like all the little kids do.

When I was given the opportunity to get involved with the Mini-THON, it wasn’t even really a conscious decision, I just knew that THON was something that I loved. Getting involved with the Mini-THON and getting to play a role in raising the money and seeing how we directly impacted families made me absolutely fall in love with it.

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

KC: OK, so I answered this for my THON Director Thursday, and apparently the reasoning that I gave for it was wrong. So, I’m still going to say the pterodactyl, which apparently is not the only flying dinosaur, as I’ve been told by many people. I was mistaken, and I will go on the record now and say that I now understand that it is not the only flying dinosaur. But I do still like the pterodactyl because I think the name is funny.

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About the Author

Caitlin Burns

Caitlin is a senior majoring in english. She watches "Dance Moms" from the beginning three times a year and thinks she's a barista because she can make one drink from Starbucks. She can usually be found taking a nap or being unreasonably angry at small inconveniences. You can contact her at [email protected].

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