Student leaders offer insights on juggling classes, responsibilities

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Elaine Tanella, Leah Matusow, Lindsay Scher and TJ Bard understand what it means to be leaders. As Penn State undergraduate students who also oversee highly active student organizations, they have had to develop time-management and leadership skills while maintaining their course loads.

Tanella, a fifth-year bioengineering major from Garden City, N.Y., is the 2012 THON overall chair. Matusow, a fifth-year secondary education math major from Dresher, Pa., has taken on the role of 2011 Homecoming executive director. Scher, a recreation, park and tourism management major from White Plains, N.Y., is the new Student Programming Association (SPA) entertainment chair, and Bard, a junior economics major, is the 2011-2012 University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) president. They offered insights into their organizations and their personal approaches to and recommendations for managing classes and extracurricular duties.

“As THON’s overall chair, I am the spokesperson and the ultimate protector of THON,” Tanella said. “One of my responsibilities is to ensure that every decision we make is in the best interest of THON and protects THON’s integrity, values and mission.”

Matusow explained, “Some of my largest responsibilities as Homecoming executive director are overseeing the executive committee and running our weekly meetings. I need to know the ins and outs of Homecoming.”

“I’m in charge of a large committee, around 97 members,” Scher said. “I do the booking and planning and run a variety of events for SPA throughout the year.”

Bard, UPUA president, noted, "I’m in charge of representing the students' voice at University Park. I sit in on a number of boards and try to gauge the opinions of the students.”

With such a large scale of responsibilities, it’s critical for student leaders to manage their time between classes, leadership positions and other organizations, they said.

“Managing time is difficult, but technology makes it a bit easier,” Tanella said. “Utilizing a calendar that is able to sync with my phone helps me effectively budget my time. It’s important to prioritize what you want to accomplish each day, and know that time is a precious matter.”

“My planner is my life,” Scher said. “I write everything down in my planner. If I don't, I won’t remember it. It helps me stay organized and remember everything I have to do.”

Through their positions, each has learned the many different aspects of leadership.

“Through all that I have done in my college career, I have learned that there are many different types of leaders and leadership styles,” Matusow said. “Leadership is not always about having the final say or being overbearing.”

“A leader is someone who is determined, inspirational and motivational,” Bard said. “As a leader you have to take yourself out of a situation and always be open to learning and changing.”

As student leaders, the success they’ve accomplished at Penn State can be credited to passion and dedication as well as support received from peers and team members.

Scher said her success has come from "hard work and dedication. I always give everything my all. I also believe my passion for SPA as a whole has benefited me in the organization.”

“I believe you’re only as successful as your team is,” Bard said. “You can do a lot more while collaborating with other leaders. Being around strong student leaders and strong organizations has given me success.”

The experiences the students have gained through their organizational service have provided them with knowledge and insight about being successful leaders and making the most of their time at Penn State. They shared a few suggestions based on what they've learned.

“I would tell students that they should not ever doubt their abilities,” Tanella said. “Each year at Penn State gives you an opportunity to grow as a person, a student and a leader. Dream big, and take your college career day by day.”

“Everyone should absolutely get involved in anything that they can,” Matusow said. “It is so important to find your niche at Penn State and once you do find it, make sure you give it your all and give back in any way that you can.”

With the year off to a good start, Tanella, Matusow, Scher and Bard have already begun making an impact on and off campus. Through their years at the University they have each been able to grow, and learn the meaning of being a leader.

“People aren’t born leaders -- you grow to be a leader,” Tanella said. “It’s something that’s earned with time and experience, and Penn State is an amazing place to grow into a leader.”

Contacts: 

Kelly Newburg

Last Updated October 11, 2011