Channeling diversity through dance

Ellie West
March 08, 2021

Schreyer Scholar and Paterno Fellow Lia O’Leary, Japanese and public relations, recently completed her year-long term as president of the Penn State K-Pop Music and Dance Club (KPMD). Focusing on all aspects of Korean culture, KPMD provides members with unique opportunities to learn new choreography and to talk and present on topics of interest during the group’s weekly meetings.

“KPMD is truly a place for anybody who has an interest in K-Pop music and dance, or Korean or Asian culture in general,” O’Leary said. “We’re not Korean-centered socially. We welcome people from all over the world and encourage anyone to join from any background.”

The club seeks to cultivate a diverse and inclusive atmosphere on all fronts. “This was a big principle of what KPMD was founded on,” O’Leary said. “We want to bring everyone together and provide students with a space where they feel like they fit in.”

O’Leary’s efforts in championing diversity and acceptance within the club have not gone unnoticed. Last spring, KPMD received the Penn State Office of Student Affairs’ Diversity and Inclusion Enhancement Award, which recognizes a student organization that has had a significant impact on advancing diversity and inclusion through their membership and club events. O’Leary noted that KPMD receiving the award was one of her proudest accomplishments during her time as president.

KPMD is a relatively new club, having only been established during the fall 2015 semester. But the group has made great strides under O’Leary’s leadership, including managing to secure office space in the HUB last fall. “It sounds kind of silly, but it meant a lot and was actually a big goal of mine,” she said. “We could finally have a place to store all of our equipment and costumes, hold executive board meetings, and give new members a place to come talk and ask questions. It just felt like a big milestone for us since we’re a newer club.”

When asked to share her favorite memory about the organization, O’Leary reminisced about the club’s annual showcase performances in years past. While KPMD was not able to host the event this past fall due to COVID-19 restrictions, O’Leary hopes that the showcase will be able to return next year.

“We put on a showcase to perform all of the dances that we have been working on for so many months and show off our talents,” O’Leary said. “We have giveaways and food, and we invite other organizations on campus, such as Ambitions and Bounce, to join us.”

O’Leary is hoping to study abroad in Tokyo, Japan this coming fall and because of that decided against serving a second term as president. She is confident, though, that her successor will fare well in leading the club.

After graduation, O’Leary looks forward to incorporating both areas of study into her future career path. She is also pursuing minors in international studies and Asian studies in an effort to diversify her educational background even more.

“I would love to work for the communications team of a large multinational company, like Google, Amazon, or Starbucks, either in the United States or Japan,” she said. “I hope to bring both of my majors together and become part of an international communications team that projects [a company’s] brand to the rest of the world in a way that fosters change.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 08, 2021