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Maribeth Roman Schmidt Aims To ‘Do What’s Right’ As Board Of Trustees Candidate

Maribeth Roman Schmidt has a love for Penn State that runs deep and a passion for the university that she wants to use to better serve its community.

As a 1988 graduate of the College of Communications, entrepreneur and business owner Roman Schmidt is taking her expertise in thoughtful communication to the ballots for this spring’s Board of Trustees alumni election.

Roman Schmidt has kept her connection to Penn State buzzing, staying in contact with her Delta Delta Delta sorority sisters, continuing her support of THON, and sharing her love for Penn State with her children. Roman Schmidt even seeks out alumni to work with because she knows that, like her, Penn Staters hold a strong sense of resourcefulness, tenacity, and critical thinking.

“I took every opportunity to meet, hire, mentor, and work with Penn Staters throughout my entire public relations career,” said Roman Schmidt.

Roman Schmidt wants what is best for the university and aims to strengthen the qualities of the university that alumni know and love. She hopes to promote transparency within the governing body and enable heightened academic quality at a lower cost.

“I think we all [Penn Staters] share a desire to do what’s right and to take care of one another,” said Roman Schmidt.

Her website outlines the pillars of her campaign, but she spoke more on the importance of these goals and what these changes would mean to students, alumni, faculty, and all of Penn State.

Roman Schmidt’s website also highlights some of her favorite things about Penn State, including her favorite Creamery flavor and her favorite Penn State memory: the 2012 Wisconsin football game. The game was an emotional one, capping off an unusual season with a big win with Penn State’s newest head coach, Bill O’Brien, following Joe Paterno’s departure.

“It was was really important, I think, as an alumnus to be there to support such a courageous team who had such a hard-fought victory, but it was also their focus through a season where they were meant to be sabotaged by the NCAA,” said Roman Schmidt. “They just showed incredible strength of character to remain focused and to represent Penn State with such incredibly high integrity.”

Since the NCAA placed sanctions on Penn State, Roman Schmidt has been what she calls a “governance watchdog” for the Penn State Board of Trustees through Penn Staters For Responsible Stewardship (PS4RS). The organization aims to engage Penn State’s alumni network and formed shortly after the Sandusky scandal broke a decade ago.

“I mean, that really lit a fire for me. There was a crisis communication catastrophe happening at my alma mater, and I wanted to do something about it,” said Roman Schmidt.

One of PS4RS’s goals, as well as one of Roman Schmidt’s campaign values, is to correct the “false narrative” of the 2011 and 2012 events regarding the NCAA sanctions.

“The board should be able to devise a plan to put the Paternos back into the fabric of Penn State. There’s never a wrong time to do the right thing,” said Roman Schmidt.

Roman Schmidt hopes that her 10-year experience working with PS4RS will be a benefit to have with the newest round of trustees. In those years, the organization has grown exponentially from a small Facebook page to engage alumni to where it is now as an advocate for alumni when it comes to the Board of Trustees.

Now, PS4RS boasts more than 20,000 alumni members who are advocating for the university and learning about the Board of Trustees, the election process, those who hold board seats, and those who will be on the ballot. Although this number may seem large, not many alumni vote in the Board of Trustees election and Roman Schmidt wants to change that.

“I’ve learned a lot about the superpower of Penn State and I believe it’s in our alumni base. [It] is not only the largest in the world, but it is talented and incredibly informed,” said Roman Schmidt. “We should really leverage them to the benefit of the university.”

Alumni young and old are vital to the university and should know the importance of the Board of Trustees. Roman Schmidt wants alumni to know that they have a voice and wants to help them learn the basics of university governance.

“I have always encouraged the university and tried to push the envelope on communication tactics that we would use to continue to communicate, inform, and educate our alumni to participate,” said Roman Schmidt.

During her time with PS4RS, Roman Schmidt pushed for changes to the Board of Trustees such as the enactment of term limits and reducing the size of the Board. Perhaps most importantly, she pushes for transparency of the Board so that all alumni are aware of the decision-making going on, thus acting as that “watchdog.”

“[It’s] learning and understanding, and oftentimes criticizing, the decisions of the Board of Trustees when it’s been appropriate, if they lacked transparency or if they were not acting in the best interest of Penn State,” said Roman Schmidt.

Now, she’s moving on to take even more action — this time possibly from a seat on the board.

“I now feel like my strategic communications skills and my decision-making skills would best serve Penn State inside the boardroom,” said Roman Schmidt.

As a university that boasts its ability to give students the highest quality education, Roman Schmidt thinks that Penn State needs to live up to its reputation. She knows that Penn State can be even better and deliver outstanding education, but current rankings are reflecting that this is not the case.

To fix this, Roman Schmidt thinks Penn State “need[s] to establish transparent, realistic, and relevant performance indicators.”

“[The rankings] are certainly not the be all end all, but if prospective students and their parents are using them as decision-making tools, then we have to respect the value that they hold and make sure that we’re being accurately represented in those rankings,” said Roman Schmidt.

In addition to the quality of education, Roman Schmidt is also focusing on the cost of tuition. In 2021, Penn State ranked dead last of all Big Ten schools in terms of affordability.

“That means evaluating our offerings, probably making some really difficult decisions, but coming up with a strategy and measurable goals that we can implement,” said Roman Schmidt. “And we’re not alone in this challenge. I mean, obviously, it’s higher education everywhere, but I think we’ve really got to have some honest discussions about how to improve that.”

By setting specific goals and cracking down on the issues at hand, Roman Schmidt believes that the Board of Trustees could be really “transformative in our governance”, especially with Neeli Bendapudi taking office in May as Penn State’s newest president.

“In conjunction with the university president, the board has an awesome responsibility for setting the tone of the university,” said Roman Schmidt. “Trustees should be examples of integrity, laser focus, selflessness, superb decision making. They should really be the cream of the crop.”

As the university transitions to a new era with a new president, Roman Schmidt is looking forward to what Bendapudi can bring to Penn State. Specifically, Roman Schmidt wants to see an improvement in academic standards and university rankings, as well as develop a stronger sense of unity among the Penn State community.

“I absolutely can’t wait for [Bendapudi] to take the reins. I’ll be backing her and building alumni support for her every step of the way,” said Roman Schmidt.

Roman Schmidt isn’t running to build her resume or to hold a title. Instead, she wants to use her skills and knowledge to make Penn State better.

“I’ve retired, I’ve sold my business, and my kids are in school. I want to use my skill set and my mindset to earn a seat at the table and work to make Penn State an example of exceptional higher education,” said Roman Schmidt.

Voting for this year’s trustee election will close at 9 a.m. on Thursday, May 5. Eligible alumni can request ballots through this online form.

Editor’s note: Roman Schmidt’s interview is the latest in a multi-part series that aims to feature alumni running for open seats on the Board of Trustees. Onward State does not, and will not, endorse any candidate(s) in this election. Check out our site to read more about the eight candidates vying for spots on the board this election cycle.

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About the Author

Mackenna Yount

Mackenna is a junior food science major from Manitou Springs, Colorado, and is one of Onward State's associate editors. She loves food, is addicted to coffee, and can give you random facts or bad jokes that you didn't ask for. Ask her to bake gluten-free goodies so she has an excuse to try out new cupcake flavors. Mackenna can be contacted via Twitter @mackennayount (especially if you want to show off your best dad jokes) or you can shoot her an email at [email protected].

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