EMS Exposition imparts leadership lessons on student planners

Students volunteer their time each year to plan EMEX, the open house event for the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. The planning committee for EMEX 2016 included, from left to right, Ryan Breton, Jenna Hakun, Cat Pomorski, Alli Colaizzi and Andrew Patterson. Credit: Lily ListAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Amid busy course schedules and extracurricular activities, five students in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS) found time to squeeze in a monumental project — organizing and coordinating the college’s annual recruitment open house, Earth and Mineral Sciences Exposition (EMEX). The student-led event provides an opportunity for students to learn about — and test — their personal leadership styles.

At EMEX, faculty, alumni and students from all five EMS departments discuss careers and opportunities within each major and host hands-on demonstrations for attendees. Hundreds of people attend each year. More than 300 people attended this year's EMEX April 1-2, including 115 prospective students and their families. Visiting students can also choose to attend a class lecture and stay overnight in Irvin Hall, the college’s special living option, with an upper-class EMS student.

The two-day event takes months of planning. Students have to coordinate among different departments; contact alumni, faculty, staff and students to volunteer at the event; work with staff to put together marketing materials; purchase shirts for all volunteers; identify students to host overnight stays and more. They do all of this without much supervision from college staff or faculty.

“EMEX is an investment that the college makes, and they really rely on students to organize the event in a hands-off approach, which puts a lot of responsibility on us,” said Ryan Breton, a senior majoring in meteorology and president of the EMS Student Council who hails from Atkinson, New Hampshire. “Leadership is about taking initiative and being responsible, so this is good experience.”

“There’s nobody telling us when we miss something or when we do something wrong, but I like that responsibility. We’re stepping up to make this happen and EMEX is one of the first experiences prospective students will have with EMS,” said Jenna Hakun, a sophomore from Dunkirk, Maryland, majoring in energy engineering.

Alli Colaizzi, a sophomore majoring in energy business and finance from Downingtown, got involved in planning EMEX because it was the reason she decided to attend Penn State.