State of State looking to spark community change with dialogue

Jeff Rice
March 25, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Change is the key word for the 2019 State of State conference, in terms of both the themes of the annual community dialogue’s speakers and the format of the event itself.

Schreyer Scholar and State of State 2019 executive director Clare McHugh

Schreyer Honors Scholar and biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering major Clare McHugh is the executive director of State of State, which is holding its annual conference March 31 in the State Theatre and the Hintz Family Alumni Center.

IMAGE: Jeff Rice

This year’s conference, themed “State of Change,” will be held from 2:30-7:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 31, at the State Theatre and, sponsored in part by Penn State Lion Ambassadors, the Hintz Family Alumni Center.

In previous years, student and community speakers were asked to include their topics in one of a series of pre-selected “sets,” with themes such as entrepreneurship or social stigmas, according to State of State executive director Clare McHugh. The larger theme of the conference would then be determined by the commonalities among the sets.

“We realized that was limiting a lot of speakers,” said McHugh, a Schreyer Honors Scholar majoring in biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering. “I had talked to people who said they were going to apply but they didn’t feel like they fit in to a particular category.

“We thought, ‘Why don’t we just do away with sets and see what happens?’”

This year, State of State first formed its theme — impactful change — and then asked its speakers to craft their dialogues around it.

“We knew it had to be Penn State-related, knew it had to facilitate conversation, and did it promote actionable change on campus or in the Penn State community?” McHugh said.

Instead of holding the event from early morning until late afternoon, which often led to attendees drifting in and out, McHugh and other organizers decided to change the venue and put all of the speakers in the same place at the same time. The first part of the event will take place at the State Theatre. It will migrate to the Hintz Family Alumni Center at 5:30 p.m. for moderated breakout sessions.

This year’s speakers will include men’s soccer player Dani Marks, who was born in London and served in the Israeli military before coming to Penn State; John Lord, former Interfraternity Council president; World Campus student Amanda Nelson, who will share her story of drug and alcohol addiction; Charleon Jeffries, director of diversity, equity and inclusion for Penn State Development and Alumni Relations; and Rob Schmidt, executive director of the Downtown State College Improvement District.

McHugh is one of several Schreyer Scholars among both State of State’s executive board and its general body. A large percentage of State of State speakers have been Scholars annually, which McHugh believes is not a coincidence.

“I remember getting in my first year and being really encouraged to take advantage of the opportunities that Penn State offers,” she said. “I think it’s really the mission of engagement with the community, getting involved, and then promoting change.”

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 March 28, 2019