Young Professionals find their voice in making Penn State stronger

December 17, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Since 2012, the Penn State Young Professionals group has been building community among young employees at the University. Now the organization has set its sights on empowering up-and-coming members of the staff to grow in their positions and strengthen the University. 

On Tuesday (Dec. 16), representatives from the Office of Human Resources hosted approximately 50 young professionals for a luncheon at the Nittany Lion Inn, listening to their vision for expanding opportunities at Penn State.

Susan Basso, vice president for human resources, opened with a presentation titled “Thriving in a Multi-Generational Workforce.”

“Four generations currently comprise our workforce,” she said. “Everyone adds value, but finding ways to attract, retain and develop millennial employees will be particularly important.”

Susan Basso speaking to young professionals

Susan Basso, vice president for human resources, spoke on “Thriving in a Multi-Generational Workforce” during a luncheon with the Penn State Young Professionals.  

IMAGE: Bill Zimmerman

Currently, the University has 4,243 full-time and 9,925 part-time employees between the ages of 22 and 37. At Penn State, 30 percent of faculty and staff will be eligible for retirement over the next five years, Basso said.

She urged young employees to take advantage of Center for Workplace Learning and Performance programs such as Penn State Emerging Leaders and online training through Skillsoft. She also recommended that young professionals seek mentors through formal University mentoring programs as well as by reaching out personally to respected colleagues, and become active in unit- and University-wide committees such as the University Staff Advisory Council and the President’s Commissions for Equity

“You are a critically important part of Penn State’s future,” Basso said, “and we need to support you in your career pursuits. And we also want to encourage you to find ways to get involved and create your own opportunities.”

She followed her talk by answering questions and hearing concerns. Some University actions recommended by those in attendance, included:

-- Updating University policy to create uniform guidelines so employees can receive release time to attend professional development events instead of using vacation time  

-- Easing requirements for the Emerging Leaders program to make more employees eligible;

-- Expanding the certificate programs offered through the Center for Workplace Learning & Performance; and

-- Providing funding for a professional development retreat and regular luncheons with University leadership.

Terry Burns, a budget analyst in the University Budget Office, founded the Young Professionals in November 2012 after hearing stories of young employees having difficulties making personal and workplace connections.

“The main goal was to help young professionals connect with each other, with Penn State and with the State College community,” she said. “The focus was on three areas: connections, development and empowerment.”

Burns established a Listserv that now has 344 members and highlights professional development, volunteerism and social opportunities on- and off-campus. She also organized the first networking lunches, which are now held monthly.

The group, comprised mostly of employees in their 20s and 30s, is now under the direction of Larry Murray, an operations engineer in the Office of Physical Plant, and Rosalee Hurn, a paralegal/office manager in Student Legal Services.

“We’re aiming to create a pool of qualified professionals within the University,” said Murray. “Penn State is known for being the leading institution for various causes. I’d love for us to be known as the leading institution for acquiring, developing and retaining young talent.”

To sign up for the Penn State Young Professionals Listserv, contact Murray at or Hurn at rah46@psu.ed or subscribe through


  • Young Professionals chairs Larry Murray and Rosalee Hurn

    The Penn State Young Professionals network is under the direction of Larry Murray, an operations engineer in the Office of Physical Plant, and Rosalee Hurn, a paralegal/office manager in Student Legal Services.

    IMAGE: Bill Zimmerman
Last Updated April 27, 2015