UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Inspiring volunteers requires a mindset and skill set that’s different from the professional world.
Katie Dunn understands that.
The 1991 Penn State graduate has served as president of the Alumni Association’s Central New Jersey Chapter since 2009, and she’s helped to organize the alumni mixer that her chapter and the Alumni Association will co-host Friday night, Nov. 18, in Edison, New Jersey, in advance of the Penn State-Rutgers football game. Information about this free event is available on the Central New Jersey Chapter's website and Facebook page.
Dunn studied at Penn State Altoona for two years before finishing her degree at University Park, and the Alumni Association recently spoke with Dunn about her leadership role and the impact of maintaining a lifelong connection to Penn State.
Penn State Alumni Association: How did you initially become involved with your alumni chapter, and what inspired you to accept a leadership position within the group?
Katie Dunn: There wasn’t an active Central New Jersey Chapter in 2007, when there was a general interest meeting in Princeton that was very well attended. I had been a football season ticket holder since 2002, and I decided I wanted to give back locally and stay connected with Penn State. I started as the membership chair, moved to vice president while still maintaining the membership role, and then I became the chapter president in 2009. We’ve won numerous volunteer awards and have earned Elm Level from the Alumni Association’s Groups of Distinction program since that level was added a few years ago.
Penn State Alumni Association: Having a leadership position within your alumni chapter, did you have any prior experience that helped prepare you for this leadership position, and what have you learned during your time that's helped you grow, personally and professionally?
Katie Dunn: I’ve been in management and leadership roles professionally, and this is the first leadership role in a volunteer aspect since I graduated. You motivate volunteers very differently. You need to make sure you are tapping into their passion and really promote teamwork. We all have demanding jobs and personal lives, so you have to find a good balance with volunteering both personally and with your board and chapter members.
Penn State Alumni Association: Do you have any members who've belonged to the chapter for a long time, perhaps decades? If so, how special is it to bridge those generational gaps and have shared Penn State experiences with alumni who might've graduated decades earlier?
Katie Dunn: We all have connection with Penn State — which results in instant camaraderie. The best way is through sports and supporting our teams when they come to central New Jersey for football, basketball, wrestling, softball, baseball, lacrosse and volleyball; we usually get a very nice turnout for these events supporting our teams. We also get a nice mix of alumni at our football watching parties.
Penn State Alumni Association: In what ways does belonging to an alumni chapter help you stay connected to Penn State, and why is it important to keep that connection?
Katie Dunn: Being part of an alumni chapter brings Penn State to you locally. It connects you to not only the university, but also a great network of Penn Staters — a common bond we all share because of our time there. I have made really great friends and re-connected with existing friends as a result of my role in the Central New Jersey Chapter. Part of the University’s mission includes service — this is my way to give back to a University that has given me so much while I was there and still gives to me. I’m a very proud Penn Stater!