Leading to serve: Student government leader learns about advocacy and delegation

Editor’s Note: The Schreyer Honors College is featuring Scholars who have been selected to the 2017 Homecoming Student Court.

When he was in high school, Alexander Shockley says, his idea of leading in a group project was to do all of the work himself.

Nearly four years in the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) have changed his opinion.

“A leader doesn’t always need to be the smartest person, or the best person, or have the greatest skills, but they have to be able to facilitate dialogue and get everybody on the same page,” he said. “It’s ensuring that the individuals you’re working with are enabled to do the best they can, so you can do the best you can. Because it’s not about you.”

Shockley, the UPUA vice-president, is one of three Schreyer Honors Scholars on the student Homecoming court. He views the selection as an opportunity as much as an honor.

“Being on the court really isn’t about me,” he said, “it’s about representing my school and talking to the alumni and showing them what Penn Staters truly are proud of right now and what we do.”

The Snow Hill, Maryland, native and Health and Human Development senior is majoring in hospitality management. He started working in a restaurant outside of Ocean City, Maryland, when he was 14 and has held internships at a half-dozen restaurants or hotels. Shockley is writing his honors thesis about how hotel management perceives job applicants who identify themselves as homeless.

“Hotels provide a great opportunity for entry-level jobs,” he said. “But there are still mental barriers and biases and perceptions in the way, and stereotypes that they face.”

Shockley worked as an intern with Hilton Global Headquarters in Washington, D.C., this past summer and will start full-time with the company after he graduates from Penn State in May. Until then, in his UPUA role he will continue to assist University administrators with ongoing initiatives, like helping to make Penn State a tobacco-free university.

Shockley, who is also a member of Penn State’s Presidential Leadership Academy, said he looks at student government more as advocacy than governing, and that he has learned to put his own opinions aside when it comes to serving the needs of his constituents.

“I take away so much from Penn State,” he said. “I’ve taken every opportunity I’ve been presented here, and I’ve benefited so much. It’s my belief that it’s my duty to give back to the place I love and leave it in a better place than I found it. I don’t think there’s any better way to do that than working through UPUA.”

The Schreyer Honors College, regarded as one of the nation’s top programs of its kind, promotes achieving academic excellence with integrity, building a global perspective, and creating opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. Schreyer Honors Scholars, including Gateway Scholars admitted after their first or second year of enrollment, are a diverse and motivated group of more than 2,000 students at University Park and 20 Commonwealth campuses. The College strives to educate men and women who will have an important and ethical influence in the world, to improve educational practice, and to be recognized as a leading force in honors education nationwide.

Last Updated November 10, 2017