Campus Life

Fried talks leadership, love, life with Presidential Leadership Academy students

Speaker, educator and author Scott Fried, third from left, pictured with Presidential Leadership Academy director Melissa Doberstein, third from right, and students and staff. Credit: Jeff Rice / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Scott Fried makes his home in New York, but for much of the year, he is on college campuses around the country speaking to students about HIV and AIDS education, sexual responsibility and consent, alcohol and drug misuse, coming out, body issues, and a number of other topics. He is captivated by the dual senses of anxiety and excitement he encounters in the age demographic.

“There’s this interesting mix of ‘I can do anything I want, but I’m kind of freaked out about that,’” Fried said. “‘I have my whole future ahead of me, and I am vulnerable.’”

Fried shared his “AIDS, Love and the Meaning of Life” program Tuesday evening at the HUB-Robeson Center, which was co-sponsored by the Presidential Leadership Academy, Penn State LGTBQA Student Resource Center, Penn State Gender Equity Center and the AIDS Resource Center. Earlier in the day, he met with several students from the Presidential Leadership Academy and encouraged them to empower others through “teachable moments.”

“What we need in leaders is emotional intelligence, the ability to see in others what they don’t see in themselves and to pull it out of them,” he said. “It’s not being the person in charge. It’s being the person who helps other people find their own power.”

Fried, who contracted HIV more than 30 years ago, has spoken at more than 1,000 colleges/universities and other spaces. He strives to educate students on current medical treatments for HIV and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and also to ensure students “are taking care of themselves.” He is an adjunct professor at Colby College, where he teaches a course originally called “A Multidisciplinary Approach to HIV and AIDS” before a student urged him to change it to “AIDS, Love and the Meaning of Life.”

Everyone has their own meaning of life, Fried said. His personal definition?

“The reason we are here is to find different ways of saying ‘I love you,’ of presenting love to other people,” he said. “How much more compassionate can we be in this lifetime?”

Sometimes just showing up is enough to lead and to show love, Fried said. That message falls in line with another of his predominant themes, one that is just as vital for college students as for anyone: “You are enough.”

“I want them to understand that you are not your major, nor are you your GPA,” Fried said. “You are an engineering student or you are a premed, but who you are underneath that never changes.”

“I have known Scott for 20 years and first heard him speak when I was an undergraduate student,” said Presidential Leadership Academy Director Melissa Doberstein. “His presence, his compassion and his passion changed the way I thought about myself. Every time he speaks, I learn something new about myself and to see students in his presence reminds me why I ask him to come to Penn State to speak. His message of ‘I Am Enough’ is what everyone needs to hear and believe.”

The Presidential Leadership Academy fosters an environment that promotes and develops values critical for potential leaders including civility, philanthropy, respect for diversity and student engagement. This academic community of students, faculty and administrators explores multiple dimensions of issues, encourages diverse viewpoints, and creates a fully informed and respectful discourse that leads to sound action.

Last Updated September 14, 2018