Scholar looking to bring history to life through storytelling

Jeff Rice
October 09, 2018

When he was a child, Nick Karafilis’ favorite books fell into two distinct categories: Disney Imagineering or American history.

Nearly midway through his senior year at Penn State, the integrative arts and recreation, parks, and tourism management major still gets excited about using storytelling to link the past to the present and is hopeful that, by doing so, he can help preserve the history of the University.

Karafilis, one of three Schreyer Honors Scholars on Penn State’s 2018 Homecoming student court, has been trying to drum up support for the establishment of a Penn State history museum, which would be the first of its kind in the nation. He and a group of eight other students raised $300 with a Kickstarter campaign last year and have picked up support from alumni.

“I think it would be worthwhile for the Penn State community as a whole to talk publicly about what we’ve done as an institution,” he said. “My fear is that there are too many people who graduate from Penn State and don’t know enough about the tremendous things that have transpired here.”

Karafilis, of Bridgeville, has long been fascinated by both the stories that come alive throughout history and by the attention to historical detail that he has seen at places such as Disney’s Epcot World Showcase. His honors thesis is examining the role of storytelling techniques in narrowing the education-entertainment spectrum for theme parks and museums.

“I have been to museums that are boring, because they don’t take the opportunity to engage with the audience. I’ve been to amusement parks that try to put up this facade of a story … they’re not getting at the root of a story,” he said. “I think that there are opportunities for theme parks to better incorporate educational elements into their experiences, because of that storytelling root that is so fundamental to what they do.”

Karafilis is committee director for the Lion Ambassadors, the music director of the Singing Lions, a vocal director for the Penn State Thespians, and involved in the Penn State Glee Club and the Lion Caucus. He said he was “humbled” by his selection to the student court and that his nine fellow representatives are “exceptional Penn Staters.”

“I want people to look at us for our stories, because I think those are more relatable than anything else,” he said. “I hope that somebody can relate to at least one part of my time at Penn State. If that’s possible, that’s what makes being on Homecoming court worthwhile.”

About the Schreyer Honors College

The Schreyer Honors College promotes academic excellence with integrity, the building of a global perspective, and creation of opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. Schreyer Honors Scholars total more than 2,000 students at University Park and 20 Commonwealth Campuses. They represent the top 2 percent of students at Penn State who excel academically and lead on campus.


Last Updated October 09, 2018