Penn State graduate is set to lead the city of Williamsport, PA

Jessica Hallman
December 09, 2019
Derek Slaughter '03

Derek Slaughter '03 

IMAGE: Provided

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A 2003 College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) graduate plans to draw on his Penn State experience and education to help strengthen his community through his new job title: mayor of Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Derek Slaughter was elected to the position on Nov. 5, after serving two years on city council. While he never sought to get involved in local politics, his experience as a high school math teacher and girls’ basketball coach opened the door for him. Through those roles, he saw opportunities to build bridges between the school district — and the students he was teaching and coaching — and the community.

“I felt there was more I could do,” he said. “Then, getting a behind-the-scenes look as a councilman really motivated me to want to do even more.”

That’s when Slaughter, a native of the city, decided to launch his mayoral campaign. He said that when he was a kid, Williamsport provided him with opportunities to participate in diverse activities and outlets — from music and athletics to arts and academics. Today, he wants to make sure that all residents have access to those opportunities.

“There’s not a lack of programs, but a lot of times there is lack of access to them,” he said. “I’m looking forward to making a positive impact on the city that has given so much to me and my family, and trying to drive positive change.”

He added, “Being elected mayor is humbling and exciting, and I don’t take the responsibility lightly. It’s very humbling to have the voters put their trust in me to lead the city.”

Those leadership skills were strengthened 20 years ago, when Slaughter became a student in the then-School of IST.

“The coursework in general prepared us for leadership roles, from team building, to collaborative projects, to how to speak in front of groups of people,” he said.

During his time as a college student, Slaughter said that he also gained other critical personal and professional skills, such as problem solving, outside-the-box thinking, relationship-building, and learning to solve problems on the fly.

“You don’t realize until you get out in your personal and professional life how well IST prepares you,” he said. “But when you left IST, you were ready to take on the world.”

As a member of the first graduating class, which was a small, tight-knit group, Slaughter said that he and his fellow IST students set a precedent for the future.

“In each class, we were doing things for the first time,” he said. “We were a part of history, so to speak. We grew together; both the School of IST and [its students] grew up together.”

After receiving his undergraduate degree, he went on to earn a graduate degree in education and worked as a math teacher. And although he hasn’t followed a traditional career path of an IST graduate, he has used the skills he learned in his college classes on a daily basis.

“IST is one of those degrees that transcends every professional career,” he said. “Even if you’re not in an IT profession, there is IST inherently built into every workforce.”

Derek Slaughter - 20th

Derek Slaughter (left) with other College of Information Sciences and Technology Class of 2003 alumni and Jim Thomas, the college's founding dean, at IST's 20th anniversary celebration in October, 2019.

IMAGE: Jordan Ford

Slaughter had such a great experience at the College of IST that he returned to Penn State for the college’s 20th anniversary celebration this fall. Members of the first graduating class were invited to a dinner to help commemorate the milestone.

“It’s important to stay engaged and involved with what’s going on,” he said. “I want to give back to the next generation, and I want to stay up to speed with what’s happening with IST and Penn State to see how I can be part of their continued growth moving forward.”

Slaughter lives in Williamsport with his wife, Vanessa; son, Jayden (8); and daughter, Chloe (6). His term begins Jan. 6, 2020.

Last Updated January 22, 2020