Engagement coaches needed for engagement grant program

Student Engagement Network is looking for faculty and staff to help mentor undergraduate students

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Student Engagement Network (SEN) is looking for faculty and staff to act as engagement coaches within its Remote Innovation Grant program and follow a Canvas course designed to help students think deeply about their experiences.

Those interested in working with the SEN and students as engagement coaches can contact Michael Zeman, SEN director, by emailing The deadline is Monday, Sept. 7. The fall 2020 Remote Innovation Grants are open now for student applicants.

The summer 2020 grant program helped 50 undergraduate students with the expenses related to remote engagement experiences. Grants through the Student Engagement Network (SEN) often — but not always — help to fund study abroad or study away experiences. This often takes the form of an internship or in-person research opportunity. But with the uncertainty that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic, SEN leaders changed course in April and worked to provide grants that would support remote experiences.

Ten engagement coaches met with their cohort of students over nine weeks this summer and worked with them through the non-credit-bearing class Student Engagement 101: Find Your Why. The course and the engagement coaches helped students build character and apply knowledge as they thought big about their path at Penn State.

Ann Taylor, an associate dean in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, said serving as an engagement coach over the summer gave her the opportunity to interact with students and help them through their journey.

“I loved it,” Taylor said. “I found it really energizing.”

She worked with her five students over the summer by meeting with them weekly for about an hour and talking through the work they were doing in their engagement and how that connected with their path. She also helped them through tough situations, like one of her students who took weeks to get placed at the right internship but persevered and ended up having a rewarding experience.

Taylor, whose background is in education and not earth and mineral sciences, said her students came from across the University and that knowledge in a specific academic domain wasn’t necessary.

“You didn’t need that,” she said. “You really need to be a coach, a mentor, a cheerleader, a motivator. Someone who can kind of push them to think a little more broadly about what they were doing and reflecting on.”

Taylor estimated she spent about two and a half to three hours per week between meeting with students and attending weekly coaches meetings. She said that time was well spent on the high-impact practices that engagement provides.

“The engagement coaches work with students across all campuses, all colleges, all majors, and all experiences,” said Zeman. “You have a chance to educate students in a wider context, push yourself outside your comfort zone, and facilitate learning in the context of a student-driven experience. It’s a trend-setting role in higher education.”

The Student Engagement Network is a joint initiative between Undergraduate Education, Student Affairs, and Outreach and Online Education. The mission of the Student Engagement Network is to advance the power of participation by connecting students with experiences that empower them to make a positive impact as citizens and leaders of the world.

Last Updated September 22, 2020