Leadership comes naturally to Penn State Smeal spring 2020 student marshal

May 06, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Children of military personnel, affectionately known as "Army brats," learn to develop certain skills as their parents crisscross the United States on deployments.

Robert “Jake” Griggs, whose family moved nine times until his sophomore year in high school because his father served in the Army, honed his leadership skills at each stop.

A photo of Jake Griggs

Jake Griggs was active in leadership roles of several organizations during his time at Smeal and Penn State, including student body vice president of the University Park Undergraduate Association.

IMAGE: Provided

Griggs, who will graduate this Saturday with a 3.95 GPA with dual majors in management and political science, has been named Smeal’s spring 2020 management and organization student marshal.

“Leadership and the idea of managing individuals within an organization have always been things that I would consider strengths, and so I think that I was drawn to this major out of a desire to develop these skills and tendencies into a more tangible skillset that I could apply both during my time at Penn State and during future employment,” Griggs said.

“I know that no matter what I end up doing, I’m going to be managing people and trying to lead within whatever organization I’m a part of. Thanks to the excellent program that I completed, I am confident that I’ll be prepared for those situations.”

Griggs accumulated a long list of accolades and activities during his academic career and, predictably, many of them included leadership responsibilities. They include:

  • Schreyer Scholar
  • John W. Oswald Award
  • Presidential Leadership Academy
  • Student Leadership Scholarship
  • Kim Anderson Memorial Scholarship

But that wasn’t all. Griggs also was heavily involved in a number of high-profile student organizations in which he was part of the leadership. He was student body vice president of the University Park Undergraduate Association, executive director of the Association of Big Ten Students, a member of the University Park Student Fee Board, a member of a THON Dancer Relations Committee, a member of the 2019 Student Homecoming Court, and was a teaching assistant in Management 326: Organizational Behavior and Design, taught by Celeste Newcomb, instructor of management and organization.

Jennifer Eury, clinical assistant professor of management and organization, taught Griggs in Management 355: Leadership and Change in Organizations. She said she saw first-hand not only Griggs’ innate leadership abilities, but also his desire to hone those skills.

“In my class, students learn about their leadership interests and aspirations, particularly as a leader in organizations, and especially a leader of organizations undergoing change. In light of his leadership responsibilities at Penn State, Jake demonstrated a particularly keen sense of curiosity for the course subject matter,” she said.

“He engaged in countless opportunities to self-reflect and commit to his leadership development," she added. "I believe Jake is aware of, and arguably more prepared to embrace the leadership opportunities that he will continue to encounter in the future.”

Perhaps because he was so immersed in his studies and extracurricular activities, being named a student marshal caught Griggs by surprise.

“I was very, very surprised and incredibly honored. I had applied without a huge expectation of actually receiving this tremendous honor, but I knew that it was something that I would truly appreciate and embrace if it happened,” he said. “So, getting the news that I had been chosen as the management student marshal was a great feeling.”

After graduation, Griggs plans to take a gap year to live at home, work locally to save money and prepare for law school in the fall of 2021. He credits Smeal faculty for his undergraduate achievements and helping to prepare him to pursue a law degree.

“I owe my academic success to the incredible faculty at Smeal, both in my department and those that taught my entrance to major requirements,” he said.

“Particularly, Dr. Jennifer Eury showed me how important good leadership is to those around you, and really made me care about what I was learning; I’ll always be grateful for having had her as an instructor. I’d mention everyone if I could, but the fact is that the faculty are all exceptional and I owe them all in different ways," he added.

As his academic journey at Smeal draws to a close, Griggs said it’s the simple things he’ll miss most about his undergraduate experience.

“It’s not something that I realized at the time would be a favorite memory, but just thinking back to the hours I spent studying with friends in the Business Building, working on projects or preparing for exams, these were really enjoyable experiences for me,” he said.

“It doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun but, given the current situation and the fact that I’ll never be able to do so again, I would kill for those ordinary Smeal student experiences.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated May 07, 2020