Campus Life

Scholars share experiences and views at third-annual State of State conference

Diverse perspectives, challenges and changes in culture discussed

State of State is a student-run organization at Penn State University, committed to facilitating a dialogue within the university community about important Penn State-related issues.  Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Five Schreyer Scholars were selected as speakers for State of State 2016, an annual conference intended to inspire dialogue on the present and the future of the University. This year’s conference was held on Saturday, Feb, 13, with the theme, “Explore the Glory.”

Scholars Melissa Aguilar, John Connolly, Abigail Kennedy and Skylar Slotter will be speaking at the conference, and Scholar Aaron Kreider will be emceeing the event.

“State of State is an important event because it gets the ‘movers and shakers’ of the Penn State community together in one place to have more casual conversations about what our Penn State society deems as important,” said Connolly, a senior chemical engineering major. “These are conversations that students want to have and providing a forum for people to come and discuss them is one of the ways that change can get sparked here at Penn State.”

Connolly, who has spent the last two years working to build collaboration within the Penn State performing arts community, will be speaking on the challenges of changing student culture. He hopes that his talk will make audience members consider how they are impacting culture at Penn State, and how they can work to get their fellow students more actively involved in shaping Penn State culture.

Kennedy, a junior double-majoring in English and secondary rducation, will also be exploring Penn State culture in her talk, which focuses on renovating the freshman English curriculum to incorporate more socially inclusive perspectives. Kennedy hopes that a more inclusive curriculum would decrease discrimination and violence on college campuses, and change the cultural climate at Penn State.

“If all our students hear about diverse perspectives from the get-go and have the opportunity to have frank and safe discussions with their peers from across the world, then we're less likely to see these cultural explosions in the future,” Kennedy said. “That means safer students who get a better, more globalized education, and I think that's what Penn State's about.”

Scholar Skylar Slotter spoke on women in the field of technology, the barriers they face and different ways Penn State can encourage women to pursue technological careers and majors. As a senior majoring in security and risk analysis, Slotter has experienced these challenges firsthand and hopes that her talk will inspire passion for the topic among audience members.

“I'm passionate about addressing the lack of women in technology because I love what I do, and I would love to empower other women to discover their passions in a field that has, for many years, been considered a “boys' club,’” Slotter, who is writing her honors thesis on this topic, said. “I would hope that, after my speech, the audience feels even an ounce of the passion I have for this topic, and also feels empowered to help change the statistics. The mission of my speech is to convey both the importance of the issue, as well as the attainability of potential solutions.”

Melissa Aguilar, a Scholar from Penn State Abington who is studying Psychological and Social Sciences, will be traveling to University Park to speak at the conference. Alguilar’s talk focused on the value of earning a Penn State degree at a Commonwealth Campus.

“I hope people will challenge why they have a negative connotation of being at a Commonwealth campus, because nobody benefits from negative speech regarding the campuses and its students,” Aguilar said. “I hope Penn Staters take pride in the fact that students can graduate from one of 20 different campuses and realize the benefits of having 20 different campuses for allowing Penn State to educate the entire commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Most importantly, I hope that Commonwealth students all start to take pride in their educational experience because if they're shameful, they're less likely to participate in amazing opportunities from the campus. Those opportunities are endless as long as they take advantage of them.”

The Master of Ceremonies for State of State will be Aaron Kreider, a senior scholar majoring in criminology and sociology. Kreider, a Lion Ambassador, said it was only natural for him to throw his hat in the ring, as State of State has had a Lion Ambassador speak at the conference each year.

“State of State is important for the Penn State community because we are ever-evolving,” Kreider said. “It is important that students, faculty members, and the community is able to stand up and say ‘This should be changed.’ It’s already a given that Penn Staters love Penn State. So, how do we make the university even better for future generations? Starting a dialogue.”

The Schreyer Honors College promotes academic excellence with integrity, the building of a global perspective, and creation of opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. Schreyer Honors Scholars, including Gateway Scholars admitted after their first or second year of enrollment, total more than 1,900 students at University Park and 20 commonwealth campuses. They represent the top 2 percent of students at Penn State who perform well academically and lead on campus.

Last Updated February 25, 2016