Connections with alumni lead Scholars to consider own paths to success

Jeff Rice
March 27, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Hayden Long is a first-year student and member of Innoblue, Penn State’s entrepreneurship club. Jason Chhay is a sophomore computer science major who is helping a local startup company develop applications.

Both Schreyer Scholars found value in listening to a panel of Scholar alumni with startup experience on March 23 during Connect 2019 — but for different reasons.

Thirty-seven alumni and nearly 120 current students gathered in the Forest Resources Building for the Honors College’s annual career networking event, sponsored by the Schreyer Scholar Alumni Society and MACOM. Discussion panels led by small groups of alumni were interspersed with designated networking periods, giving students time to follow up directly with alumni.

The startup panel, which included Rebecca Lee Funk, CEO of the feminist apparel company, The Outrage; Jeremy Frank, CEO of State College-based KCF Technologies; and Todd Bacastow, senior director of strategy and corporate development at Radiant Solutions, shared advice on raising venture capital and which common pratfalls young entrepreneurs would do well to avoid.

Chhay, who works with the Happy Valley LaunchBox startup ChatPak, a portable livestreaming device, enjoyed the chance to gain more knowledge about entrepreneurship and valued the often simple but valuable advice of the Scholar alumni.

“They knew what the key steps were to success as well as the key steps to make sure you don’t fail,” Chhay said.

Scholar Samantha Olson, a junior science major, attended the panels on medical school admission and “Real World 101.” She valued the advice of alumni currently practicing medicine but also found it valuable to hear from those who had taken a gap year or changed career paths.

“I thought that was great, because you got to talk to people who are actually in med school right now and experiencing all the things we’re about to experience, but also get tips on what it’s like to be a doctor, all the steps and all the pathways you can take,” said Olson, who is planning to attend medical school. “It was great to have such a diverse panel to see all the different roads, different practices.”

Scholar Michael Lind, a chemical engineering student who will graduate this fall, spoke with Scholar alumnus Ryan Koch, who graduated from Penn State with honors in chemical engineering and worked with Proctor & Gamble before deciding to pivot to a career in consulting. 

“I really wasn’t considering consulting as a career path before,” Lind said, “but now it kind of seems like it might align with some of my career desires for the future, and it’s something I could explore going into the next career fair.”

Long, who is currently in the Division of Undergraduate Studies but plans to study industrial engineering, found value in hearing many of the topics he has discussed in Innoblue covered by the alumni. He was also impressed by the alumni themselves.

“It’s also cool that you hear about how successful you’re going to be at Schreyer. A lot of times you lose that idea whenever you’re caught up in your work,” Long said. “But then you come here and see these people and how successful they are and to think that they were in our exact shoes really renews that faith that I’m in the right place, I’m on a good trajectory, and I have unique advantages that I may not have gotten anywhere else.”

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 27, 2019