EMS Exposition imparts leadership lessons on student planners

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Amid busy course schedules and extracurricular activities, five students in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS) found time to squeeze in a monumental project — organizing and coordinating the college’s annual recruitment open house, Earth and Mineral Sciences Exposition (EMEX). The student-led event provides an opportunity for students to learn about — and test — their personal leadership styles.

At EMEX, faculty, alumni and students from all five EMS departments discuss careers and opportunities within each major and host hands-on demonstrations for attendees. Hundreds of people attend each year. More than 300 people attended this year's EMEX April 1-2, including 115 prospective students and their families. Visiting students can also choose to attend a class lecture and stay overnight in Irvin Hall, the college’s special living option, with an upper-class EMS student.

The two-day event takes months of planning. Students have to coordinate among different departments; contact alumni, faculty, staff and students to volunteer at the event; work with staff to put together marketing materials; purchase shirts for all volunteers; identify students to host overnight stays and more. They do all of this without much supervision from college staff or faculty.

“EMEX is an investment that the college makes, and they really rely on students to organize the event in a hands-off approach, which puts a lot of responsibility on us,” said Ryan Breton, a senior majoring in meteorology and president of the EMS Student Council who hails from Atkinson, New Hampshire. “Leadership is about taking initiative and being responsible, so this is good experience.”

“There’s nobody telling us when we miss something or when we do something wrong, but I like that responsibility. We’re stepping up to make this happen and EMEX is one of the first experiences prospective students will have with EMS,” said Jenna Hakun, a sophomore from Dunkirk, Maryland, majoring in energy engineering.

Alli Colaizzi, a sophomore majoring in energy business and finance from Downingtown, got involved in planning EMEX because it was the reason she decided to attend Penn State.

“The more you lead and the more experiences you have, the better you get at leading and the more you realize what works and doesn’t work.”

-- Jenna Hakun, energy engineering student

“I received two offers of admission from other schools while I was attending EMEX in 2014, but while I was at EMEX I realized how much I enjoyed Penn State,” she said. “To me, leadership is about going above and beyond what you think a normal college student does, and planning EMEX allows me to do that. I love EMS and I like trying to get others as inspired and excited about EMS as me.”

Other students, like Andrew Patterson, an environmental systems engineering major, echoed that sentiment.

“When I was applying to different colleges, I was looking at mostly small- or medium-sized schools. Coming to EMEX helped me realize that I could get the focus of a small school while still being at Penn State,” said Patterson, who hails from West Orange, New Jersey. “I got involved in EMEX because I wanted to give back.”

For prospective students, EMEX provides a taste of the opportunities available in EMS, including undergraduate research. When Cat Pomorski visited EMEX, she connected with Allen Kimel, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, about her research interests.

“When I attended EMEX, I talked to Dr. Kimel and mentioned that I wanted to get involved in research. He told me to contact a faculty member in the department, Dr. Allison Beese. That’s who I’m doing research with now, looking at characterizing additively manufactured metals,” said Pomorski, a sophomore majoring in materials science and engineering who hails from Erie.

Pomorski said that planning EMEX is a way that she can pay forward the positive experience she had.

“Leadership is about taking charge and sometimes doing things that others might not want to do. I enjoy doing it because it helps the incoming students have a good experience and helps them decide where they want to go to college,” she said.

Planning the event helps students hone a variety of skills that are important for leadership.

“In my role as communications chair, I definitely have developed better written communication skills,” said Colaizzi. “Coordinating EMEX has also helped me be more organized and a stronger leader.”

“Leadership is about taking charge and sometimes doing things that others might not want to do."

-- Cat Pomorski, materials science and engineering student

“You really need to be organized to plan EMEX, and I’ve really improved my organizational skills because of planning this event,” said Pomorski.

Being a leader also lets students be creative and leave their imprint on the event. Hakun spent part of the spring semester redesigning EMEX marketing materials in collaboration with EMS staff and the planning committee.

Leadership is a long-term journey of figuring out a personal style, and it can take many forms.

“If you’d asked me before planning EMEX what leadership was, I’d have said it was being the face of your initiative. But leadership can also mean standing behind the scenes making sure the gears run smoothly, whether you’re making sure everyone is where they need to be, addressing issues that come up, or finding replacements,” said Patterson.

Every experience helps students on their leadership journey and provides chances to test different strategies to find a leadership style that works for them individually.

“The more you lead and the more experiences you have, the better you get at leading and the more you realize what works and doesn’t work,” said Hakun.

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Last Updated April 12, 2016