Parker Werns: Engaging PittHonors students via educational programs

Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

The Penn State Blue Band helped Parker Werns adjust to life at the University by providing an outlet to play the trombone and meet new people. It also helped him discover an academic program that he never knew was an option.

“My best friend in the Blue Band mentioned that he was majoring in education and public policy,” Werns said. “He described the classes he was taking, and they aligned perfectly with my interest in education, specifically in terms of inequities and social justice issues, as well as how policies shape K through 12 funding. It sounded like EPP was the perfect major for me.”

Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Werns made the most of his student experience at Penn State. In addition to Blue Band, he was actively involved with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) initiatives, particularly as a member of the (former) President’s Commission for LGBTQ Equity, as a peer educator, and as an intern in the LGBTA Student Resource Center, which was renamed the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity in 2019.

“The Commission for LGBTQ Equity was a really cool opportunity for undergraduate students, because you got to collaborate with the president of the University and other University leaders to work toward positive changes for the LBGTQ community,” Werns said. “In addition, my internship responsibilities included assisting with the first-ever campus-wide project to document the LGBTQ resources available at all Penn State campuses, as well as their surrounding communities. We used that information to make improvements to services at all campuses.”

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in education and public policy, Werns moved to Atlanta where he initially worked in the restaurant industry. However, because he was living in a city that’s home to the largest concentration of colleges and universities in the Southern United States, Werns soon decided to refocus his career on the field of education and moved back to his hometown to earn a master’s in higher education management from the University of Pittsburgh. Werns said his undergraduate degree positioned him to succeed in graduate school.

“Having the education and public policy background was super helpful because it gave me that K through 12 and policy foundation that other students in my higher ed program didn’t have,” Werns said. “I felt like I had some context for everything we were learning and discussing in class.”

While working toward his master’s degree, Werns became manager of Honors Housing at Pitt. In this role, he serves as a liaison between approximately 400 first-year students and approximately 200 upperclassmen, and he collaborates with Residence Life, resident assistants, and faculty and staff to create programming that is fun, interesting and engaging for PittHonors students. Although the pandemic has changed many of his Honors Housing initiatives, Werns said one thing has remained constant: the population he serves.

“The students are so incredible,” Werns said. “They are all smarter than I was at their age. They bring a positive energy, even with all that there is to be negative about during this pandemic. And they are funny and caring and kind. It’s really refreshing to spend time around the younger generation.”

Werns, who completed his master’s degree in spring 2020, resides in Pittsburgh.

Last Updated December 02, 2020