IST's Rita Griffith named to 2018 Homecoming University Court

Jessica Hallman
October 08, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Rita Griffith is a Penn State convert. While she hasn’t yet pursued a degree at the University, her husband has earned three and both of her children are currently enrolled as undergraduates. Griffith has, however, spent the last seven years as a staff member in the College of Information Sciences and Technology, where her passion for helping students in their career searches and the impact she makes shines through in her role as assistant director of professional development in the Office of Career Solutions and Corporate Engagement.               

That’s why she was nominated to serve on the 2018 Homecoming University Court, which recognizes Penn State faculty and staff members whose devotion to the campus community goes above and beyond the call of duty.       

“The students that I come in contact with motivate me to see their energy and excitement and passion for what they’re doing."

—Rita Griffith, assistant director of professional development in the Office of Career Solutions and Corporate Engagement   

“Rita is the most hard-working, dedicated, passionate and all-around phenomenal adviser a student could hope for,” said Aaron McKenzie, a junior majoring in information sciences and technology, who co-nominated Griffith for the honor. “She will never hesitate to go out of her way to connect students with alumni, schedule a last-minute appointment as needed or provide advice at any hour of the day.”               

While she is honored and humbled to be named to Homecoming University Court in recognition of her impact, Griffith says she is only one of many on her team who are working daily to influence the lives of IST students.               

“It is really not all about me,” she said. “It is more accurately about all of the career coaches and academic advisers that support and assist students throughout their Penn State careers. I am lucky to be part of a community of individuals dedicated to guiding students to their eventual career successes. So beyond being proud of the students I work with, I am proud to be a representative of our student support team here in IST and at the University.”

Griffith, who is one of six staff and faculty members across the University to be named to the court, dedicates time and effort to facilitate professional and personal development opportunities for students. She teaches a professional development class each semester; coordinates internships for IST students enrolled in Penn State World Campus; offers career coaching; collaborates with faculty to help students prepare for the career fair; oversees the IST diplomats, who serve as ambassadors of the college; and serves as faculty adviser to the Women in IST (WIST) student organization.               

“I love student engagement,” said Griffith. “I really look at these students as my own.”              

She explained that she draws inspiration from her own children, both currently enrolled in other colleges at Penn State and members of the Penn State Blue Band.             

“I look at IST students’ success as something that I celebrate as if they were my own kids,” she said. “It becomes pretty personal.”              

She described her role like that of a parent, saying that some days are challenging and she struggles to see where she’s making an impact, but others highlight where she’s beginning to make momentum to help students shape their futures. Those little successes, she says, inspire her to do more for others.

While she undoubtedly has a positive influence on the students she encounters, she says that they have an equally rewarding influence on her.

“The students that I come in contact with motivate me to see their energy and excitement and passion for what they’re doing,” she said. “I’m not so sure that I don’t get more from them than they get from me.”

Griffith’s path to her current role is quite unconventional. With degrees in music education from the Eastman School of Music and in choral conducting from the Yale School of Music, she spent the first 12 years of her career in the public school system. Then, after taking time off to spend with her young children, she had a hard time getting back into the classroom.

“Rita coaches her students to be the best version of themselves and provides invaluable insight without a second thought. She provides reassurance when students need it the most and when they don’t know they need it at all.”

—Isabella Webster, Penn State senior in security and risk analysis

Her neighbor, who worked in the College of IST at the time, was looking for a temporary assistant to work with her. It was a perfect opportunity for Griffith, who was able to maintain the flexibility to be home when her kids got home from school. However, three weeks turned into six, then 10. She then moved into the career solutions and corporate engagement office in 2011, where she’s been ever since.              

“There are a lot of students in the college who can fill a lot of positions. It’s my job to help them find positions that match their skills and career goals as well as to help them become career-ready to be successful in those positions when they are hired,” she said. “That’s what I’m thinking about as I come to work.”             

That objective is making a big difference.              

“Rita coaches her students to be the best version of themselves and provides invaluable insight without a second thought," said Isabella Webster, a senior majoring in security and risk analysis who co-nominated Griffith for Homecoming University Court. “She provides reassurance when students need it the most and when they don’t know they need it at all.”

“I’m really proud of IST students and the work that they do,” Griffith concluded. “I’m constantly amazed at their intelligence and at the impact that they are making in their internships and full-time positions. I hope that I am influencing that impact to be a positive one.”

Last Updated October 09, 2018