Sean Goheen (Host) 00:00:01
Greeting scholars and welcome to Following the Gong, a podcast of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State.
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Following the Gong takes you inside conversations with our Scholar Alumni to hear their story so you can gain career and life advice and expand your professional network. You can hear the true breadth of how Scholar Alumni have gone on to shape the world after they rang the gone and graduated with honors and learn from their experiences so you can use their insights in your own journey. This show is proudly sponsored by the Scholar Alumni Society, a constituent group of the Penn State Alumni Association. I'm your host, Sean Goheen, class of 2011, and college staff member. If this is your first time joining us, welcome. If you're a regular listener, welcome back.
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Sean 00:00:55 Welcome to a special episode of Following the Gong. One of our mission tenants in the Schreyer Honors College is creating opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. A very popular and meaningful way for many scholars. And Penn Staters to do that is through Penn State Dance Marathon, or as you probably know, it better thon. On today's episode, I'm joined by my first ever guest host, Tessa Bay Shot class of 2023 th chair for the Schreyer Student Council and Family Relations Captain for TH 2022. As we talk with four scholar alumni, Greg Tallman, Elaine Tanella, Charlotte Rose, and Dominic Mirable, who served on the THON overall or executive committee about their experiences and lessons learned and how it's helped them in their careers. This episode is a great listen for any scholar involved in a club or organization on their campus for both the here and now and leveraging those experiences in their career. It's also great for scholars looking for advice on time management and advice on the thesis, and certainly for any scholars or scholar alumni who are passionate about thon. I'll let you read their full bios in the episode themes in the episode description on your podcast player since this episode is already much longer than our normal episode length. With that, let's dive right into our conversation following the gong.
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Sean 00:02:13 Thank you all for joining me today. Today is a very special episode of following the Gone. This is our first four alum panel here, and we're really focusing on the college's mission tenet of creating opportunities for civic engagement and leadership, specifically related to Penn State's Dance Marathon or thon. And as part of that, I'm excited to have my first ever guest co-host today. So Tessa, can you introduce yourself? Hi,
Tessa Beauchat 00:02:38 I'm Tessa Beauchat and I'm the primary THON chair for Schreyer Student Council. I'm a third year student studying human-centered design and development, and I'm really excited to be joining you today.
Sean 00:02:47 I'm excited to have you here, and I'm also excited to have four former THON directors or overalls on with me today. So we're just gonna go by grad year through the list. Greg, can you introduce yourself? Sure.
Greg Tallman 00:02:59 My name is, uh, Greg Tallman. I'm currently living in New York City. I'm a graduate, uh, in 2010 with degrees in finance and economics. Uh, and I served as the communications overall, uh, for THON 2009.
Sean 00:03:14 Glad to have you here. And Greg also is a past member of the STO Alumni Society Board. So welcome, Greg. Elaine, you've had two roles on the committee. Can you introduce yourself?
Elaine Tanella 00:03:24 Hey everyone. I'm Elaine Tanella. I graduated in 2012 with a degree in biomedical engineering, and I was the communications director for THA 2011 and the executive director or overall chair for THON 2012. Look at me using both names. <laugh>
Sean 00:03:43 Welcome. Glad to have you here. Charlotte?
Charlotte Rose 00:03:45 Yes, my name is Charlotte Rose, uh, formerly Kohl. I graduated, um, in 2013 with a degree in political science. And, um, under Elaine, I was the executive communications director slash communications overall for THON 2012. Glad
Sean 00:04:01 Glad to have you here. And Dominic, can you round us out? Yeah,
Dominic Mirable 00:04:04 Sure. Thanks Sean. Uh, Dominic Mirable and I graduated from Penn State in 2015 with a degree in electoral engineering and was the donor and alumni relations director for THON in 2014. Definitely
Sean 00:04:15 Appreciate having that perspective on here, working in the development and alumni relations office for Schreyer. Now. Tessa, I'll let you kick off with our first question for our panel today. Awesome,
Tessa 00:04:24 Thanks Sean. Um, just kind of to get started, what first attracted you to come to Penn State and specifically the honors college, and then how did you become involved in tho in your time here?
Greg 00:04:34 I can start then with, with that, I guess that my, my journey to Penn State, uh, started early as, as many persons journeys do by having both, uh, parents, uh, having been attendees, um, not met at Penn State, but they did meet shortly after. So I'd always been, uh, a fan of just that collegiate atmosphere, the large, you know, football game and tailgate journeys, but all the way, you know, through just having a, a community and campus that's really student-centric, um, with all the resources that, you know, any 18 to 22, uh, year old could, could enjoy. Um, and then specifically then as I got later in my, my years in high school, learning more about the SCHREYER program, you know, really saw it as an opportunity to sort of double down and, and excel in the classroom with a smaller class size and, and the beliefs on and tenants around, you know, community service and, and global engagement.
Greg 00:05:27 That, that resonated with me, um, which drew me to Schreyer. I think that last piece really on, on service and the last part of your question being what, what drew us to getting involved in in son I, myself, you know, sort of experienced the benefit and, and the support of others, you know, growing up in a single parent, uh, household, um, leaning on a lot of people in a lot of different roles, you know, sort of giving back. So, you know, even through my journey in high school, I, I was very focused on, on volunteerism and engagement, uh, and then coming to Penn State, uh, I don't think there's a better, better stage or scene, uh, to be involved in that than th presents. So, uh, I sort of knew right away, uh, you gotta do THON, you gotta do THON what, what doing. That wasn't exactly clear probably for many of us in those early, um, months on campus, but, uh, was able to quickly, you know, roll up my sleeves and, and dive in. And it really provided some transformational leadership experiences for me, uh, on campus.
Elaine 00:06:25 I do have to add also that when I was a freshman, and I almost had the opposite experience of Greg, but I wanted to go to a university in a city. So Penn State was just sort of like a off the whim school. I applied to, uh, I'm a New Yorker, grew up in the suburbs of New York, and my dad just happened to watch football every Saturday, Penn State Football with an alum. So I was like, that sounds cool, I'll apply here. The rest of the schools I applied to were city schools. I was like, I don't think I'll go there. Um, ended up going and doing a, a stay over program with the Society of Women Engineers, which you would think that would divert me even further, like shadowing a engineering class as like a high school senior. And I fell in love with the campus in February. It was like two weeks before th and then when I got to Penn State, Greg was actually the, I guess, I don't know what we called it then, but the executive director for Atlas. So he was basically the head of Atlas th and so he was the, my first interaction with, with THON um, was going to an Atlas meeting. 'cause I lived in Atherton and I saw all the flyers and I was like, gotta get involved with th this seems cool. It's in my dorm. Um, so I have to share that one. I
Charlotte 00:07:41 Actually too was influenced by <laugh>, by Greg <laugh>. Um, I also from am from out of state, I'm from New Jersey, although I wasn't focused on city schools, I was focused on much smaller schools through my college search process. Um, I was very close to my guidance counselor who basically told me, unless I visited a large school, she would not be helping with my college applications. So I be gradually went with a friend for a day. We actually had a current Schreyer student at the time who was also a lion ambassador, gave us a tour and some things, I don't know if it was him, someone told me in my search process that you could make a big school small, but you can't make a small school big. And I think it's something we've probably all heard, but that's something that really stuck with me. Um, once I finally, you know, through my process, I learned about Schreyer, was super excited, went to accepted students day.
Charlotte 00:08:27 That was actually the first time my parents had seen the campus, and it was a, um, really a very defining foam moment for me, seeing all the resources that a large university could provide, but the small, more intimate focused environment that Schreyer could also provide. Within that, when I showed up for move in at Schreyer, um, during Showtime, I'm not sure if it's currently still called that, but the orientation Showtime, um, became friends with some of the older students who were the mentors, had no idea what th was. They told us, went to, to a few Atlas meetings. Greg was actually on one of my first, uh, canning trips, fundraising. I'm, I'm not sure, I guess canning doesn't exist anymore, but on one of our first fundraising trips, um, Greg was with me and I didn't really know anything about communications, to be honest. Um, and that's eventually what put me into the communications, um, really trajectory where I then became a captain and an overall, um, so I too was influenced by Greg, but like Elaine also had a different path of what got me to Penn State and Tryer. So
Dominic 00:09:24 It sounds like Greg recruited <laugh>. The other two I did not have the chance to get to know Greg, but, um, just to add a little bit about my story, it, it's similar to, to what's been shared around, when I think of Penn State, when I thought of Penn State originally, you know, you get this feeling of it's big, it's a big community, it's a big football weekend, it's a big campus, and it has the scale of, um, you know, a full land grant university that that helps you get a lot out of your education. Um, but what drew me to Schreyer specifically is that it was a way to make it feel small, and it was a, made a way to make it feel like a family and a smaller community with really like-minded people who are maybe reaching beyond what typical students get involved in and thinking bigger about their careers and their, their aspirations and their dreams.
Dominic 00:10:11 And I found that, uh, in spades in Tryer and in terms of getting involved with th um, I had, uh, the experience of one of my rowing teammates who was diagnosed with, um, childhood cancer, uh, in high school. And then, you know, by luck I arrive at Penn State, which has this huge apparatus in organization to get involved and feel like you can make a difference in that, in that fight. And so it was just this perfect moment of having this, you know, tough experience of, uh, seeing it up close and then being told I can actually make a difference in this cause. And so got involved in my freshman year and, uh, really found that, that that was true, that, you know, a bunch of college students can really come together and make a difference in the fight against pediatric cancer.
Tessa 00:10:57 Awesome. Thank you all for sharing that. Um, I had a kind of a similar experience, so it was funny to hear that I from everyone.
Charlotte 00:11:03 Did Greg too also recruit? You can't
Tessa 00:11:06 Say I got that experience, unfortunately. It seems like it was a good one. <laugh>.
Greg 00:11:09 Yeah. Well, considering I went first in intros, meaning I'm the oldest that was, you know, eons a k a a decade or more ago, which is crazy to think about. But, um, yes, I, I definitely remember distinctly the moments that that, that both Elaine and, and Charlotte shared. Um, we'll talk a little bit more, I'm sure, about what Atlas Don even means and the journey and role that Schreyer really has played in amplifying, uh, TH's reach and leadership and, and whatnot. So I'm, I'm excited to, to continue the conversation. Me
Tessa 00:11:40 Too. But before we get on to like some more thoughts, well, I guess kind of related with your academic interests, did you have anything either in your undergrad or in your post-grad that you pursued after college that was influenced heavily by th in your career trajectory or anything else?
Charlotte 00:11:56 I will say, I actually, um, I was a political science major, um, and I intended to go to law school <laugh>. I did not go to law school. I married a lawyer and I see that it was a good choice. Um, but when I was going through classes, that was my goal was either, either immediately after college or taking a few years off working and then eventually going to law school through my role with communications athon, it's, it does share many parallels with marketing, and I think it's something that, something about my role at Communications was there was multiple different audiences you had to serve. There were a alumni, there were current students, there were student orgs, there were parents, there was, uh, Penn State faculty and staff. And it's something that being able to take, like what was the th mission and how people could get involved in applying it to these different audiences was a challenge that I really enjoyed.
Charlotte 00:12:42 Um, and so I actually lead this was, I was a, um, overall slash director my junior year. So it allowed me some more time to kind of make a career shift, um, in my plans. And when I actually started to look at roles for post-grad, I really focused in, in, in more of the marketing communications, um, area. So I actually got my first job through on-campus interviewing. Um, and that's kind of really where I landed in my marketing career. My first job out of college was marketing. Um, so while it's, I am not in the nonprofit world, some of the skills and really what sparked my initial interest in it was because of my role with Anthem.
Dominic 00:13:18 Yeah, I had, I had a similar pivot to Charlotte. I came in in engineering and for the first, you know, two years of college, I was staying up late all hours of the night doing engineering problem sets and trying to figure out all the math and science. And that's something that was intellectually engaging, but I don't think it really brought me to life. And then having the leadership role and on, and seeing how, just through being a part of organization by learning leadership, by bringing people together in a common goal, just seeing the power of that at the scale that Don operates really encouraged me to think about, you know, what role I wanna play in organizations. Do I want to be an engineer or do I want to kind of move into management and focus more on, um, leading organizations? And so it got me much more interested in business.
Dominic 00:14:02 And I think there's a lot of parallels to, especially the donor alumni relations role and, and business organizations. And so I also was a director in my junior year, and when senior year came around, I started looking at consulting in a, in a way to learn more about businesses and, and really never looked back. And so my encouragement to scholars would be, you know, just listen to what, what, in your experience, maybe it's in the classroom, maybe it's outside of the classroom, but what in your experience really lights you up and just follow that. Um, it'll lead you to the right place.
Elaine 00:14:33 I'd also agree, I feel like one of the really cool things about Triers was you met people with so many different majors, but everyone was so engaged in the classroom and also outside of the classroom, that it really made you realize that, okay, I am majoring in my example in biomedical engineering. I thought I wanted to go to med school or grad school. It really made you re recognize that I can actually do anything. And what I'm learning most importantly is how to work with people, how to problem solve, how to communicate at the most basic level. And if you have those skills, um, they're transferable to anything. I think one of the most challenging things probably from coming from THON to the real world is like everyone just treats you like you're the, you know, to do their grunt work. Um, but in reality, like the skills, I think we all probably gained just in, you know, every aspect of every level of being involved in th are like far superior than any sort of corporate level training. Um, but yeah, the, the world is your oyster as a Schreyer scholar. So
Greg 00:15:36 Yeah, to echo those sentiments as, as someone who, you know, studied business, um, but was in the communications, um, you know, work stream or, or the team, uh, for Sean, um, it really is about stakeholder management. Uh, not, you know, as, as Charlotte, uh, mentioned, um, learning how to interact and deal with people, structure thoughts, make critical decisions, lead and, and motivate teams. And, you know, I've gone on and, and gotten a graduate degree in business and those themes still ring true. And, and looking back at the hon um, experience, that was really where I think I flexed those muscles, you know, a as much or more than I have in any other, you know, professional or graduate school setting. Um, you know, since,
Tessa 00:16:17 So you just all mentioned a lot about leadership and kind of building on that, what was, what really sparked you to kind of continue to apply for more leadership roles within on and take on these higher responsibilities in your time here at Penn State?
Elaine 00:16:32 It's like the generic answer that I think if we were to all go back to our overall applications or executive director applications is just you wanna do more and you want to give more of yourself to the organization, to the families, to the, for Diamonds Fund. Um, I don't, I think one of the things that I've, I've appreciated most about all of fond leaders that I've ever interacted with, even as alum, is the humility and humbleness of the leaders. And I think, you know, I obviously don't know the student leaders as much today, but I think most people's desire to continue on and, and get more experience with leadership with Don is, is not because they want to be a leader, but because they actually deeply care and identify with the mission and want to help the families and want to give more of their time and more of themselves to the organization. And leadership is almost just sort of like the secondary attribute that, that comes with that desire.
Sean 00:17:26 I'm seeing a lot of head nods. I think everyone just trying to agrees with Elaine on that. So I'm gonna ask the next question. Everybody I'm seeing on the Zencastr screen right now is, or was involved in a lot of student organizations, not just th student council, C C S G, line, ambassadors, other groups. How did you all find time to be involved in those other things on top of THON and just being a
Greg 00:17:48 Student? Well, that's the old adage. You know, there's plenty of time to sleep when you're dead. And I think, uh, many of us on the screen, uh, took that approach, uh, through our, our, our years at Penn State. Um, but it, it was invigorating, right? I mean, uh, you know, this is the work that gave us energy. I mean, yes, we were excelling in the classroom, um, that sort of table stakes for, you know, most of us or many of the scholars. Um, you know, people could laugh 'cause I was the business major, so when my friend I, I got to be both social and extracurricular. Uh, but the engineers, uh, and lab researchers maybe, uh, had a, a different set of circumstances. So, um, really just building that sense of community and, and getting involved, you know, across organizations, you know, Penn State can seem like this big, uh, organization or university for some, but once you're involved across those groups that you mentioned, you know, student government, uh, and, and homecoming and this and that, you will not believe the number of familiar faces, you know, and friends you see walking through the hub, walking through Atherton and, and the halls.
Greg 00:18:54 It, it just, um, you know, I'd play the game. How many, you know, from here to Smeal, uh, how many hellos am I gonna need to say, you know, what's the over under, it's probably 10 to 15. Um, you know, and those are just the student leaders that are, that are, um, you know, you're interacting with on a day to day. So, um, you just learn how to manage your time, knew what your expectations were in the classroom, and, you know, your work might have, you know, you're gonna have to make some tough calls about whether you're gonna, um, you know, study a little bit extra or harder for that test tomorrow, or, you know, crank through some emails that have been waiting in your inbox. But those are skills and, and challenges we you will face in the real world. Um, so it, it's just good. It was good practice and time management, um, to get it all done. I
Charlotte 00:19:39 Would also say, in my experience, like more involvement, like begets more involvement. Like once you start to make some connections, the web just continues to grow. And I think that's something that, again, when you think about making a big school small, um, once you're involved, whether it be in trier honors, college activities, hon or any other extracurriculars, you start to really gain a larger understanding and a much deeper appreciation of the other experiences that other Penn State students bring. And I think that's something that I really loved. I met varsity athletes, I met people in U P U A people that I probably wouldn't have been in contact if I had strictly focused on my schoolwork. Um, again, liberal arts. So I was not engineering or was not in a lab like Greg said. But I think, um, there was something to be said about being able to make those connections and ag and you start to see it become a very circular, I I actually wanna be more involved 'cause I'm meeting more people and meeting more people makes me want to be more involved and better understand those around me and those that are, that are fellow students here.
Charlotte 00:20:37 Um, I would also say in terms of balancing things, this is another skill that I think really started with th for me, but has extended into my professional life of being present where you are when, when you're in a th meeting, you're paying attention to that. And when you have th work to do, you're doing th work. And then when you're locked in on, you know, your student mode, you're locked in on that. Um, and I think that ability to really balance difficult priorities, things that are happening simultaneously, separate work streams, that's something that's only become more complicated in my professional and personal life as life goes on. Um, but I really think of where I started to learn how to balance that. And that all started with being a schreyer student and being involved in tho
Elaine 00:21:14 I'd also say one of the really thing, the things that stood apart to me in just comparing my academic experience at Schreyer and Penn State compared to other friends and family that may have gotten elsewhere, um, like an IV is like everyone was willing to help each other out. Uh, there was, it, it was competitive in the sense that people wanted to better themselves and better those around themselves, but it wasn't cutthroat in that if I had to miss class 'cause I was sick, or I had another engagement, that someone wouldn't share their notes with me or something like that. So even though it was hard to balance, you know, school versus th meetings or other extracurriculars, there was always like a, it was very much like a team atmosphere. There was always there someone to support you, and you would in turn do the same for your peers. And, you know, those late nights in, you know, doing engineering problem sets, like Dom said, you had people doing them with you. So even though it might have been arduous, it, it was fun, you know, like, you'd still laugh and joke and find ways to make it fun. So definitely really fortunate with that.
Dominic 00:22:18 Yeah, the, the only two points I would add is I think it, it really hit home during San at the peak of my involvement, just how important it was to know myself and to listen to myself and to really just dig deep and understand how, how I work best and what are the conditions that make me most effective and efficient, and what do I need to be able to show up to class and Tucson and to my other extracurriculars and show up for my friends and my family. And I think most people, I'd imagine, you know, when you're pushed to the, to the brink of you just feel really oversubscribed. You have to start asking yourself those questions and designing your life to set, set you up to be able to manage all those, um, different constraints. And for me, that happened at Penn State and for me, that happened in my involvement for th So I'd encourage scholars to think about, you know, do they work best working into the night or is it better for them to go to sleep early, get up and, and do that?
Dominic 00:23:12 Or do they need some social time? Do they need exercise? Like, how are you prioritizing your day so that you are showing up as the best version of you to all these different commitments? Uh, and then the other, the other thought I had was, one of the big lessons I took from San was just this idea of delegation and empowering others. Uh, and I think I learned this lesson really the hard way in the first couple months. I was really trying to do everything and be involved and aware of everything that my team was doing. And as soon as I started investing in other people, getting them up to speed, getting them clarity on what to work on, the workload just became much lighter because then they were empowered to go and make decisions and, and, and maximize their impact. So learning that skill of delegation also helped with, with the balance piece as well.
Tessa 00:24:01 Moving on to kind of, as you talked, balancing academics is kind of a crazy act, and especially with the schreyer requirement of writing your thesis. So some of you were directors or on the committee during your final year as a scholar, which meant that non weekend happened and then your thesis was due, or if you were in your junior year, your proposal was due. So how did you balance doing your responsibilities for th weekend and also making sure you were fulfilling all of these academic requirements? And I'm very personally invested in these answers. I will be taking notes <laugh>,
Greg 00:24:34 Well, I was, uh, lucky enough to be on the exec, uh, committee my junior year, like Charlotte not as lucky as, as maybe Elaine or some others. So from a thesis standpoint, uh, I was definitely managing, uh, other extracurricular priorities, uh, uh, during that, that time period. Um, but but senior year I was able to, uh, take on some kind of cool, cool projects and initiatives, um, that were most interesting to me. And, um, that was one way that it sort of worked out that I, that I could manage. But again, um, my being of sort of a business background, it was sort of backend loaded, I won't call it a full procrastination, uh, few month crash course. Uh, the tools and resources were there to get started and, and planned early at, at a, uh, steady pace over the last couple years. But, um, maybe that's what I was so busy doing junior year.
Greg 00:25:26 So I think it was just, you know, leveraging the, the time in the classroom reserved and carved out for thesis prep and thesis understanding that really helped sort of set the stage so that when it came time to sort of finish the research and, and, and grind, if you will, you know, there was a clear pathway to, to do so. Um, and, and to sort of go out on a, on a high note as opposed to feeling as though this was, you know, a weight hanging over us. Um, so that's just how I, I went about, about mine.
Charlotte 00:25:57 I was also in my junior year, I think, um, I think something that was helpful was I really leaned on my advisor for help, understanding like, what does this timeline really even need to look like? So going into it, you know, although it was my junior year was selected at the end of my sophomore year, so the entirety of my junior year, I knew Thaw weekend was coming up in February. Um, so being able to kind of build out that timeline. So come January, come February when you're really in the full swing of all things thaw, um, it wouldn't hit like a tsunami at the very end. Um, I do remember, I think I had like eight or nine ams and I was not a morning person. I was very much an eye owl on college. So that wasn't always favorable, but <laugh> really had no other option with that one.
Charlotte 00:26:37 Um, but I think there's those things like that where you learn like, okay, I'm gonna like front load my day, and so I have an afternoon, three days of work that I can just get work done, whether that be student work or whether that be on work. Um, and I think being able to understand like what are the timelines and what research, what resources do I have available? I think that's something that was really crucial in the process to me of understanding, like I have, I have other honor students who have done this, whether they, whether they are a year or two ahead, and I have other advisors and other people I can go to within the honors college who are familiar with this process, who can help guide exactly how I should even be approaching this. They're not gonna do the work for me, but they can help me establish a framework that will then kind of allow me to make sure I'm putting forth the work needed. So then I can also focus on pon.
Elaine 00:27:23 Definitely. I think one of the huge assets of being a scholar is you have so many resources, um, you know, you've met so many people in your dorms, you meet other people in your major also. And, um, I think just in general, finding a, an advisor early on that is gonna support you and help nudge you along. 'cause I think most college students like to procrastinate. So trying to even recall, maybe I blacked it out of my mind how <laugh> getting it done in senior year. But, uh, I was fortunate in that I did most of my research the summer leading up to, um, you know, my senior year. And so most of what I had to do was just syn synthesize my lab notebook, which if you've ever seen my handwriting is a challenge. And, um, convert that into actual text and diagrams and things for a thesis. So definitely just time management, um, which I think as a scholar you learn early on, uh, which we're all fortunate for.
Dominic 00:28:16 Yeah, and I think I probably did, to be honest, I probably did a fair amount of cramming on the thesis. I remember being in the honors college and we were all just kind of looking around at each other in the couple weeks before it was due. And there was that same face of, oh my gosh, why did I leave this to the last minute? Um, so I imagine that's pretty common, but if I was to go back and, and do it again, I would say that I, I love the quote of, we don't always rise to the level of our goals. We fall to the level of our systems. And so if you can think of a way to have a forcing function to make sure you're making progress against the thesis, and maybe that's intermediate deliverables that you sign up for on certain timelines with your advisor, uh, or some kind of timeline that that is forcing you to do the work in small chunks versus saving it to the end. Uh, if I could go back in my wisdom now and, and talk to myself as a senior, that's probably what I would say to do.
Sean 00:29:21 You just heard some great advice from our scholar alumni and completing the honors thesis. A great resource that we have here in the college is the thesis bootcamp. If you're a scholar in your last semester, you'll have gotten an email from Deborah Rogers, our coordinator of academic advising and services about this program. The Thesis bootcamp is an opportunity to have quiet, dedicated space for you to write your thesis. The benefit is that you'll be surrounded by other scholars who are in a similar place, and you can lean on them for advice and support during this process. College staff will also be there to help you answer questions. College, college staff will also be there to help answer questions about the process formatting and other questions that you may have about the honors thesis. With that, let's get back into our conversation here on following the gong.
Sean 00:30:19 So for this next question, Charlotte, I'm gonna let you take the first stab at an answer, and then everybody else can chime in too. And because of the, what you answered on your questionnaire, you were director of your third year and you were leading a team of captains, and then those captains had 20, 30 students on their committees. So you're talking about being the, the manager for 200 students, maybe how did you start developing the skills to manage that committee as their leader on top of, again, being a scholar and facing what we might even call today, imposter syndrome? Yeah, you
Charlotte 00:30:51 Know, I think, um, I think I most relied on kind of two different areas. First had wonderful mentorship, um, and second really a system of trial and error, but we were in an environment that it felt safe to do so I think first focusing on mentorship, I was on the exec, I was, uh, the exec chair for communications, and Elaine was actually our overall that year. Um, I had had Elaine previously as my comm director when I was a comm captain, so it was great to have a f it was great to have a familiar face. I knew her leadership style and there were elements, lots of elements that I really wanted to emulate with myself. Um, and then I think we also had wonderful other mentors. For instance, we had our faculty advisor at the time, Barry Bram, who was a really great resource for us.
Charlotte 00:31:37 Um, whether it be like small, like I don't know how to handle this specific situation or larger macro questions where you could always go into his office and just be like, I need help. I don't know how to address this. I think that's something that, you know, homecoming was near us. They had a similar experience with their advisors, and I think that's something in a collaborative environment like Penn State, um, and then other fellow students in Schreyer were involved in their own organizations. I think being able to kind of bounce ideas, whether it be off of fellow peers or off advisors, was really, really helpful for me to understand both what were other people's leadership style, what did I wanna take of that, and what parts of it did I really need to make my own. Um, again, I think a, a theme we're seeing this in, in this is that it really, it was really kind of like the launchpad for my own leadership skills to develop that.
Charlotte 00:32:22 I still try to, um, you know, continue to foster in my professional life today, really understanding that some of the students were actually older than me, which in college, like one year feels very significant. Um, that's a quarter of your college experience. And it was, it was an environment that I had to understand how do you best, um, it was, it was actually like the first crash course for me. Like, how do you understand what other people's strengths are and how do you, how do you help them develop their best work? How do you identify what their weaknesses are and where others can really start to kind of pitch in there? Um, and then like the biggest, one of the biggest things for me was like, step out of their way. Like, people can do great work on their own and that, that learning of how to delegate and just get out of people's way when they're doing great work.
Charlotte 00:33:04 That was kind of my first experience with that and it wasn't my last, um, but I think some of those first leadership roles really happened there. Um, secondly, on the second point, I think trial and error. Again, I think being within Penn State and then you have Schreyer is like the smaller environment that you're, that you're comfortable in and you have, you know, very familiar faces when you're, I lived in Atherton both, uh, my first and second year and walking into the lobby, you always recognize people and you felt like it was a safe environment for you to kind of test these leadership skills and what works, what doesn't. Um, and then again, you had a wonderful group of fellow execs. We had 14 other execs on our committee, plus Elaine, and that allowed me to really feel like I could kind of test out exactly like, is this good to delegate?
Charlotte 00:33:47 Okay, maybe that should have been a task I did myself. Maybe I'm taking on too much. I need to find other avenues to kind of push this work to, um, and also understanding if people did have weaknesses, how do I help them grow? Um, and that's something that in turn helped me grow as well. I think imposter syndrome was very real for me. I was, um, the end of my sophomore year when I was selected, Elaine could tell you I definitely thought I did not get it. Um, and when I did, definitely had a tough time, even like grasping, like, wait, you, you chose me. Um, and it was something that I was very excited for. I wouldn't have applied if I didn't think deep down in my hearts of hearts that I could truly do it. Um, but again, that was like one of my first experiences where I'm like, oh, this is actually kind of terrifying that now I need to go and do this.
Charlotte 00:34:29 And I don't really even know where to begin. But I think the experience was so great and I've learned so much, and it's just continued, like what I learned in my role in th has formed like a launchpad for so many other aspects of my life that I've continued to seek out opportunities where I'm like, oh, I'm a little terrified to do this because I've found that those have been off on the most rewarding for me. So, um, you know, I felt similarly when I got into Schreyer too. You're like, oh wait, really? Um, and I think it's those type of experiences that have really led me to again, seek those moments out where I'm a little bit terrified, but I know that it'll, it'll probably reap the largest rewards. I,
Greg 00:35:04 I think the, the point that Charlotte made about sort of the, the low stakes environment, um, it didn't feel that way at the time, right? You, you, you almost carry the weight of your shoulders, the weight of your, um, you know, reports. Not that they're those, uh, your partners, um, your friends. Um, and looking back there couldn't have been a, you know, sort of safer space to, to take those, um, you know, what was seen at times as as risks. You know, do I apply, do I not apply? Um, I hadn't been a captain before in the formal fund organization. I'd been a committee member, but I never led a committee when I, um, had applied, I had led the fundraising organization Atlas, um, the year prior. So I mean, I had the leadership skills and experiences, but I didn't know what I was, you know, necessarily doing.
Greg 00:35:53 And to Charlotte's point with people who were older or people who had applied for your position, or people who could do what, you know, you're being tasked to do with their eyes closed, and I'm coming in with my eyes wide open and a binder, uh, of transition materials, um, how do I, you know, break that down, how do I gain, um, their respect and trust? Um, and I mean, you know, this experience is about the delegation. I mean, it, it's trust, it's reliance, and you can't do it all from, from day one. It's, it's very clear. So that that helps you, um, develop that, that sense of sort of delegation and leadership when, you know, we all are aligned to the same mission. To to, and, uh, Elaine's point earlier, we are very much a, a self-selecting group in terms of those that are, you know, in it for the right reasons, um, understand the mission and keep the, the, the, the th and Fort Diamond's family, um, you know, closest to their hearts.
Greg 00:36:50 Circling back to that, it makes those conversations much, much easier. So just my, you know, encouragement to, to students is to, you know, take those, those opportunities when they come because, um, frankly, when you hit the post grad blues, you're looking for ways to get involved. It, you know, it's not as easy. You don't have a signup sheet, uh, for volunteers. You don't have, uh, you know, clubs and or, uh, orgs, uh, you know, down the hall, uh, that you can stumble into the Grandfather clock lounge and, and attend. So, um, you know, taking advantage and, and, uh, you know, you'll see those fruits for years, uh, years to come.
Dominic 00:37:22 Yeah, this, this question, it, it took me back to my, when, when I first selected my captains and was meeting them for the first time, and we kind of sat around in our meeting rooms and in a circle, and I, I can, I can actually feel the feeling I was having with them just kind of looking to me. And I think that was probably the first time where I felt real, really in the situation of, okay, these people are looking to me to set, set the vision and to bring them together as a team and to accomplish the goals that everyone shares. And I remember being, you know, very stressful, and I was similarly, uh, I I was a director as a junior, and there were folks that were older than me. There were many folks that applied for the same positions. And then you also have this whole dynamic where, you know, from a lane, uh, forward, the total is just kind of going up and up, and the organization is growing and growing.
Dominic 00:38:18 And so you, you carry the weight of that too. Like, you, you, you feel like a steward of this organization and you feel pressure to help it continue to grow. And, uh, I think the only antidote for that is just really adopting a growth mindset to say, and, and I think I remember saying this in my first or second meeting, just like, I'm gonna get things wrong. We're all gonna get things wrong. Um, but that's okay. We'll get better together. We'll learn from it. And if you set the table that way, uh, with a team, I think it's a much better environment for all of us to come together and to grow as individuals and grow as a team. And it kind of takes the air out of the, the imposter, uh, syndrome mindset of saying, wherever I am today, I just have to get a little bit better and I have to learn and grow. And it's, it's a journey there.
Tessa 00:39:06 So kind of leading from a lot of what we just talked about was the skills that you did develop through THON and that it was a great environment to do so, but there are, are there any skills that you wish you would've developed during this time period or with whether that regards to like academic or your THON involvement, is there anything that you would maybe give advice to someone to really try to work on in your position?
Elaine 00:39:29 This might sound strange, but making time for yourself. I think that as a scholar and being on the overall committee, it was either schoolwork or tho or social Hour with friends. And I definitely could say that Penn State and the tho um, years were some of my most fond memories of Penn State and most fun. But like, I was not a healthy individual <laugh> in terms of feeding myself or self care, like working out or just recognizing that taking an hour or 30 minutes outta the day to like, you know, just do something for yourself is a normal thing that you should learn as an adult, um, growing up. So as silly, that is just one <laugh> piece of advice if I could go back and tell myself is don't, you know, eat wings over for multiple meals or <laugh>, something like that. So,
Tessa 00:40:22 Yeah, I know my director mentions at the end of every one of our meetings, I don't know if this was a thing when you were there, but th is the largest student run philanthropy and that you're a person first and a volunteer second. So it's funny to still hear that
Charlotte 00:40:37 Ate way too much Panda
Elaine 00:40:38 Chick-fil-A. What else did we have in the hub at the time?
Dominic 00:40:43 Borrow <laugh>,
Charlotte 00:40:45 I would say, I think, um, you know, I, I think something that's just always tough is, I think Greg kind of hit on this, but at the time you feel like this is, this is all encompassing, like this is my life and I think this, this,
Charlotte 00:41:00 It's also sort of going off what Elaine's saying, but I think just, I do think we were good about it, but just the perspective that like, if things aren't going okay right now, that's not the end of the world. Um, it's really tough in the moment because you have the weight of, you know, it's a 15,000, I probably even more if 15,000, I think at our time we always said it was a conservative estimate of how many volunteers, and that's before you take on the emotional weight that at the end of the day, tho is helping families are going through a nightmare. And it's really tough to separate that and not wanna give your entire self to it. Um, and I think that's something that, again, just kind of being able to have perspective in that moment. I don't know if anyone's ever great at that, at any point in their life, but it's really hard to not feel like this is going to swallow me whole if I don't do this at 150%.
Charlotte 00:41:48 Um, I think, you know, with the gift of perspective and having a paid career that's different from volunteering in Penn State, you kind of learn that like you can't be the best student and the best volunteer and the best family member and the best family friend. You can't give everything 150% all the time. So how do you really look at what is a priority at what moment, um, so you can be the best in the situation you're in at that moment. I think that's something that I was just kind of like, and I don't think I was alone in this, but you're like burning the midnight oil, literally. And it was fun. Like, I have really great moments of either like, trying to be quiet in the zombie lounge late at night or like in the hon office all night. Um, but you know, you, you also have to realize that like you're a student now, and there are, there will be life moments after this that will also be challenging. So trying to learn and understand that in the moment as well.
Sean 00:42:38 So, a little bit of a lighter question now, Greg, this one's specifically for you. You were involved in Atlas, which we've talked about, and I actually remember you dancing for them, uh, my sophomore year, your senior year. What was it like being on the other end of the event weekend after serving on the executive committee? Uh,
Greg 00:42:54 Yes. Yes. Um, so a as a senior I was able to dance for, for Atlas, which was sort of a very cool come full circle moment. Um, it was only, its second year, um, as an organization. Um, my first year at, at, um, Schreyer, and then four years later, um, it was the largest, you know, non group, group on campus. Um, you know, from the basement of, uh, Atherton Hall, we actually to move our meetings to Thomas and, you know, what would that do? Because, you know, now we have to walk, you know, in the winter to meetings, do we really wanna leave, uh, you know, this 50 person room in Schreyer? And, and we did. We took the leaps and, and grew. And then, um, after having served as a executive director to dance, I'm not gonna say it was, it was easy because it wasn't, uh, I think the hardest part, um, and I say that only because when you're on the exec committee, you're starting way earlier on that Friday, um, and you're going way later on that Sunday, uh, for tear down.
Greg 00:44:00 And yes, you're assigned a a very brief sleep schedule, but with the adrenaline that's running through as a leader, um, you know, you're, you're sort of giving it your all. So, um, then on the other side, as a dancer, you know, I, I think I, I was mentally prepared, but it really, the hardest part for me was just really reflecting and taking it in and, and, and cheering on my, my fellow, um, friends who were dancers who maybe hadn't gotten involved that I saw that, you know, would come up to me and say, Hey, you know, we're here because you bothered us. Like I did Charlotte and Elaine, and, and thank you. And you had other organizations maybe at the time we were competitive, friendly, uh, you know, rivals coming over and, and shaking your hand and saying like, man, what a journey this has been. So it really was a great, you know, kind of cap of the, of the journey full circle, um, to, to have that reflection moment at the end of my, um, my career. Um, but I would say the exec direct directive, uh, duties that I had were, were a bit more challenging. I was like, okay, so I'm just gonna stand here. It's only 46 hours. That's it. We'll be outta here tomorrow. Okay, let's, let's play with some kids and, uh, you know, play with some friends and, and, and enjoy the time we had. And
Sean 00:45:10 Then as a follow up to that, Greg, so you mentioned at the time what is Atlas Springfield, these groups, that was kind of a revolutionary idea at the time. Now that, but for like Tessa's cohort of students, it's just normal. It's its own category. Can you talk about how you helped lay the groundwork for the special mission groups becoming their own category within th
Greg 00:45:29 Yep, absolutely. So, uh, you know, in my early th journey, you know, really there were two ways to fundraise for th right? So the way TH's structured, of course, it's the formal organization and the various committees that are sort of working on the execution, um, of the entire year long program, culminating within the weekend. But that's only, you know, we are enabling the organizations on campus to fundraise. Um, of course Don, you know, it, it is in itself coordinating many of those measures, but, um, to the point of 50 thou, 15,000 student volunteers, um, that really encompasses the entire, uh, campus community at the time though, that really represented, you know, Greek organizations and then other organizations on campus such as Lion ambassadors, such as, you know, the Red Cross Club, et cetera, that would sort of add on tho fundraising as, as a second priority, third priority that they were all involved in doing.
Greg 00:46:20 And they would have their own chairs, and that was how you could get involved. Um, some scholars much more, you know, visionary than I, the year before I joined, said, well, we wanna raise money for thon. Um, we have the same goals and objectives and, and care for the four diamonds. Why can't, can't we just do that? And, um, you know, the leaders before me said, you know, sure, I guess you can do that. So the first two real independent organizations, Springfield, um, tho and Atlassian were both based in Simmons and Atherton Hall. And then what became, you know, these smaller organizations to Sean's point over the years became its own category, its own classification of, no, there's just people that we're empowering to form, you know, teams across their freshman, you know, um, dorm floors and fundraise it that way. And how do we get them equipped, right?
Greg 00:47:07 You know, there's no legacy of information. They don't know where to start. How do we workshop and plan for these organizations? 'cause we really saw this is the future, you know, growth of this organization. And, you know, fortunately, uh, that that came to bear, um, those betts, if you, if you will, that the, the leadership team have found sort of made during my journey, um, you know, know continues to, to serve, uh, san's mission today. And I get super excited when I see the total slides at the end and see, you know, the category in page and it's, wow, a decade later they're, they're still going, you know, not only Atlas Springfield, but the many others, oh, Ohana and the others of the world. Um, you know, on that listing that, that I helped, uh, you know, in, in providing guidance and tools and sharing my experiences, um, that would benefit them are, are still there today. So I think that that's why most, you know, proud accomplishment having given back to the, to the organization. And on
Charlotte 00:48:02 The note of dancing is what's your biggest piece of advice for dancers?
Greg 00:48:07 How many other fellow dancers are on here? I know Elaine danced, if not my ear, Charlotte danced getting a a a no from Dom, um,
Elaine 00:48:18 Danced before you are behind the scenes. 'cause I don't think I could have done like Charlotte or Greg did and danced <laugh> after I had been involved. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and seen all the, I don't know, part of it's just being able to walk and find some quiet space. So, um, just knowing what you, what what your coping mechanisms are for when you hit a wall. And for me it was spending time with our tho families At the time Atlas, I danced as a sophomore, so I was totally naive and had no idea what I was getting myself into. Um, but I don't know, like, know, know yourself and, and knowing, um, what's gonna sort of like bring you back when maybe you're going through a, a tougher moment.
Charlotte 00:49:00 Yeah, I think just like being prepared in, in a way that's unique to you. Like I knew the time and because of experience, again, I danced my senior year and served on the overall committee my junior year. Um, and so because I essentially had the minute by minute already memorized in my head, I was like, I know it's gonna happen now. And so mentally I could not have the experience of not knowing the time. Um, but I knew when I get hangry, I get really mean. So I had like a full supply of snacks ready and a full supply. Like I knew when people were coming on the floor for me that would be able to bring me snacks. Um, but just in general, like that was a key for me of like Gatorade and water and always a snack. And I think just knowing like other people were like, I need to keep walking.
Charlotte 00:49:42 Um, and the social aspect of it was really important to me. I think something that really made dancing, um, much more rewarding for me the year after being on the OC was again, like, like Greg had said, you see people in the stands that you maybe didn't know before, fellow dancers families, that you really didn't, that you wouldn't have had a relationship otherwise. Um, and I think that social aspect of it was the part that really carried me through the weekend of there was always someone new to find on the floor, um, whether that was like causing some light mischief with them or just again, to go get a snack with. Um, but it made the experience fly by for me.
Greg 00:50:19 Yeah, I, I, I tried to be the first, uh, dancer slash morale, uh, my senior year and, and took on that cheerleader role, or I guess it's did the dancer relations committee today at the time, the morale, uh, the morale committee, uh, you know, tasked with making sure the, the dancer and, and family wellbeing is at the forefront. Um, so, you know, I, I definitely took, uh, more of the angle of, let's let's soak it in, let's have some fun. Uh, 'cause I also certainly knew, knew the time and, and knew, uh, knew what to expect. So there, there weren't gonna be any tricks really pulled over, pulled over our heads, but, uh, made the most of the weekend, uh, with, with those we interacted with. So,
Sean 00:50:57 I hate to take the conversation down a peg after talking about snacks, but this one's specifically for you, Elaine, since you served as the, what we now call the executive director. So you were in that role during a very trying time for Penn State and also for thon. And the, you kind of detailed this a little bit in the Penn State or magazine, which is a great benefit of joining the Penn State Alumni Association, uh, in the January February, 2022 issue. Can you talk about what strategies you employed to steer tho through what was probably one of its darker moments? Yeah,
Elaine 00:51:28 I would, I, I would say it wasn't just me. I, I think one of the biggest strategies was not doing it alone and realizing we weren't alone. Um, you know, as Penn State students, it was just a tough time to, to be a student. And then losing one of our volunteers, uh, was also just another, um, extreme challenge and leaning on a committee like Charlotte was on the committee, like leaning on each other and recognizing that none of us had the answers for how to move forward or how to just address and mourn, um, if you will. And I have to give another shout out to our advisor, Barry Bram, who was so critical and key, um, in just an advisor and just making sure that we were okay. Um, but I think really what it all came down to is, and I think Dom touched on this earlier, is when you have a mission and you have a framework, um, for what you're striving for as an organization, it makes decisions a lot easier because you always have that mission to answer to. And what we collectively recognized is, you know, we still have to support Fort Diamonds Fund and for Diamonds Fund families, and our mission for conquering childhood cancer has not changed, will not change. Um, and that kept us kind of laser focused on just continuing to provide the best experience possible that we could for, uh, the families and the fund and student volunteers, um, through some of those, uh, tougher months.
Sean 00:52:58 So maybe to pull the conversation back up again, what was it like being that, that c e o figure, a lot of our scholars go on to lead organizations like thon, like U P U A and others. What was it like being the kind of that central figure and leading the organization?
Elaine 00:53:12 I hated the attention, to be honest. So I, um, <laugh> it was, it was definitely like a, I say strange in, in the way that like, I'm not someone who likes attention. So for me, I always just tried to stay humble and give opportunities to those on the committee. I tried to get to know as many of the volunteers, the captains, the committee members as possible, because at the end of the day, they're the ones dedicating the most hours. The organizations are the ones out there fundraising, they're the biggest donors to the organization. Um, you know, I think what it was like was just an extremely humbling experience. And, um, to this day, one of the most rewarding experiences I have and something I try to take with me is just that, um, you know, you can grow and prepare future generations for sort of anything. And getting to work with so many dedicated volunteers, students, faculty, staff, um, getting to know families and really be in touch with the mission was just truly awe inspiring. Um, so I can't find a single world to sum it up, I apologize, but it was, uh, it was something <laugh>. Yes.
Greg 00:54:21 Yeah. I mean, I, you know, Elaine is alluding to what a AHAN director or exec director, you know, might feel and a little like, it's the closest thing I'll probably ever have to celeb status, right? Um, but at the same time, you recognize you we're just people. Clearly it hasn't gone to our heads, but I remember sitting in my class freshman year, right? And you see somebody in the, in the tracksuit or in the gear or with the jacket, you're like, oh my gosh, look, I'm an Italian with the overall, uh, chair. Um, so I really took it on myself to, to do what Elaine did, uh, which was, you know, I didn't say no, and other student organizations like invited me as sort of a, a guest of honor, and I wasn't there to, to jump on the mic or, or, or whatnot. I was there to just to learn and, and meet people and, and see how we could be involved and, and help.
Greg 00:55:09 And, um, you're really like a steward of, of not just, you know, your committee, um, of the program, you know, really of just the university student services organization, which is, it's just absolutely massive. So, um, yeah, it was a, a, a visible role. I think both being on the comms side, it would be, uh, Charlotte, Elaine and myself both sent the emails, the newsletters, so we were the, the, the oz, if you will, behind the email. So oftentimes, even if you just met someone, um, they're like, wait a second, you, you're the one that sends me emails. Yeah. And I don't read those. And I, I'd say, great, uh, you don't need to read those. And others would say, man, I read the, I read that email. Let me pull it up. What was this, uh, that you sent out? So it, it was always just like, it, it added, um, you know, a bit of spirit to some of the, the conversations, um, that we had, but it really just afforded me opportunities to serve as, you know, maybe a, a a judge on an Indian dance competition for, which I had no experience for.
Greg 00:56:06 Uh, but I also, um, you know, wasn't a opportunity just to get to know a lot of people, um, in these leadership roles, which are the relationships and experiences I, you know, remember most.
Tessa 00:56:18 So, um, Dominic, I'm gonna start with you on this question because you're the most recent grad, but, um, everyone can chime in. I know a big thing in THO and how we get through our positions is leaning on the predecessors in the roles within thon. I know I was best friends with my predecessor from last year, and it really allowed me to have a lot of creative freedom in the position. So what was that relationship like relationship for you, and how did you feel like you were able to grow what they had done before you?
Dominic 00:56:47 Let me first say, I, I think it's just truly remarkable that Don is this organization of 15,000 people that turns over every year. Like very few people are in the same position. And so the only way that works is a lot of thoughtful planning to transition knowledge and relationships and processes from year to year. And it's definitely the situation where if I can see further, it's because I'm standing on the shoulders of giants, if you will. And my relationship with my predecessor, his name was Mike Riggin bch, uh, who was Donor Alumni relations the year before me, uh, was incredibly, incredibly supportive. And I'd say the first several months of, of that relationship was him teaching me the mechanics of the role, learning how to, uh, work through, uh, what is expected of me as a director and to just understand how the machine worked, is the way I was thinking about it.
Dominic 00:57:41 And then afterwards, as I moved into the summer and into the fall, then it became my turn to think about what, what type of impact do I want to have on this organization, and where do I want to put my energy and effort and how do I want to kind of leave my brick in this long line of people building what's on is today? And just as an example, I remember in 2014, you know, I think we had this twin problem of, or this twin challenge and really was an opportunity of thinking about the long term viability of canning as Elaine, uh, alluded to. And then also thinking about kind of filling the B J C to capacity in the year prior. And those presented two opportunities for us to rethink how do we fundraise, how do we think about the weekend, um, and what are the areas that we can test and innovate, uh, against those challenges?
Dominic 00:58:32 And so I chose to focus a lot on alumni and alumni chapters and, and corporations versus just the, while still sustaining all the efforts around individual fundraising and organizational fundraising. And I, I think the really cool thing is that that work then laid the foundation for my successor to actually split donor and alumni relations into development and alumni relations. And that story played out again. And so it's really less of, I, I really do see the position in all student leadership positions as, um, more stewardship, right? You're stewarding the organization for a time, you're learning from everyone who came before you and trying to change the trajectory in some way and set up the next person for success. And I think the relationships and the handoffs that, that on has set up is really remarkable in enabling that.
Elaine 00:59:25 I would just add that, uh, I spent many nights calling my predecessors and asking for their guidance and advice on how they would handle different situations. And I think that that continues to, you know, shine through, even in corporate world now is like you develop these mentors who may not obviously be your predecessor, but may have worked in a similar role and just really continues to, you know, bring home that it's important to have a network and important to have a network of people who, uh, you value their perspective, opinion, um, to problem solve. Yeah,
Greg 00:59:57 I think, uh, I didn't really, I haven't seen as, uh, a robust the knowledge transfer process that went into the transition, right? You think you're sort of done when you're rolling off, and then it's like, wait, we've got another month passed on. Um, where we're, you know, working to, to provide the tools and resources and experiences and knowledge to our, uh, successors. So as I mentioned, I hadn't been a captain before. So much of what was in my, my reading materials was, you know, new, new, the first time I was seeing it. I hadn't been at these events before. Uh, I hadn't attended one of these, maybe I was on another committee as a committee member before. So, um, that's where, uh, in those situations to, to Elaine's point, you relied on, on giving them a call, um, both up the, up the chain, down the chain to get some insights, but also as, as, um, you know, Dom had mentioned coming with a new vision, right? We're, we're in on, we're, we're innovators and that's why we were selected to be in those roles. It's, it's not rinse and repeat, but the transition really provides the foundation to set you up for success. And then, you know, it's about introducing new ideas, finding out what works, what doesn't work, what you would do differently, and capturing those, that's the only way tho grows over the years. Um, you know, both, both from an organization standpoint, um, and on the fundraising, um, side, uh, that was such a huge part of, uh, the experience.
Tessa 01:01:26 So I know that throughout a lot of these questions we've touched on, like how it is so simple and easy to be involved in thon and a lot of that centers around the families who really reside at the center of our mission at every point, um, which is what I find to be so wonderful and beautiful about Thon. So was there ever a specific family that had a really long lasting impact on you, or an interaction you had with a family or a family story you may have heard over the years?
Greg 01:01:53 It, it's certainly hard to, uh, to sort of pick, pick any one, which I think is why there's, there's a pause looking at, at the faces on this call. I think, uh, you know, Atlas's, uh, first family, uh, the Smith family, you know, really became, you know, my family on campus, you know, a family I could turn to, you know, really for anything I needed, you know, personally and got to know, you know, my family situation a as much as theirs. And, um, knowing that, you know, the challenges that, that they were going through and the fight that Vic, uh, was, was working through where she maybe couldn't, couldn't be there, you know, for every event we might have had planned. Um, but if she couldn't, there'd be a representative from the family there, you really saw how much they put into the experience and you're like, wow, they've got a lot of other priorities on their plate, and this is at the very forefront, you know, of it.
Greg 01:02:47 So, you know, I still to this day look forward to the texts I get on my birthday, um, or seeing some of the Facebook posts and updates, uh, today, which is, which is really neat and, and cool. And I think that's the other part, just seeing in Facebook the pictures of those that were really, you know, y young at the time, the physique is family, actually physi is for, for one, you just seeing updates on, on the, you know, seeing her be an adult, right? At the time it was about, you know, hanging out with the dance team and showing off skills and the talent show. And then, you know, today it's about what her career aspirations, uh, you know, might be. So yeah, just, just, just, I think all of those, those are the ones that come, come sort of front of mind, but there, there's too many to really choose anyone. Yeah,
Charlotte 01:03:32 I, I would echo that. I think, um, so I actually danced my senior year for my sorority Phi Beta Phi. And at the time we had three families. We were paired with each in sort of a different phase. Um, we had Aaron Thomas family where their son was in active treatment. We had the Courtney Jarrett family where Courtney had actually passed away, and we had the Crystal Bryan family, and Crystal was their mother, and she was, um, you know, a survivor and she had her own three children that would attend events. And so it was really striking to see the variety of experiences and all of these families were able to get support from our sorority, our paired fraternity, and th um, and the Four Diamonds Fund in, in different ways. I think something that really stuck out to me across our, our families, but also any family that we came into contact with, was the fact that they were also sharing such a moment that was vulnerable and, you know, likely one of their worst experiences, um, they were able to share that with Penn State students as well.
Charlotte 01:04:25 Um, I think something, again, I just saw an update on Emily Whitehead and she was, you know, very small when, like 10, 11 years ago when we were involved. And parts of my Facebook, it's like a photo of her towering over Steven Spielberg. And, uh, whether it be like physical differences or just these, all of the hon children of course are growing, you're like, what is, what is happening? Um, but I think it's just the ability to really understand like how, how they're able to go and live their, their lives day to day. Um, and that Penn State students are able to kind of share in that experience even in such a small way.
Elaine 01:04:57 I'll have to echo Charlotte, like I couldn't pick, I mean, all of them. And similar to Greg, the, the Victoria Smith family and, um, the Robson family were just some of my first interactions with for diamond's fun families. But it's just incredible to, well, one, it makes me feel old, but just watching, uh, these kids grow up and, you know, on Facebook and like their younger siblings who, you know, were toddlers, um, on stage as family speakers are now like in middle school or high school, and you're like, wow, okay. Uh, that's wild. Um, but it's just incredible to, to watch and each of them really just inspirational to still see to this day. Yeah, you guys all
Greg 01:05:40 Said it the best,
Sean 01:05:40 If I can actually jump in Tessa, uh, on this. I know I was not on the executive committee by any stretch. The Natalie Biancone family and Jason Swope family from the Birch Campus, uh, they were all paired together. I thought of one lesson I remember learning from them is that the experience that the Fort Diamonds families go through can either really bring a family together like nothing else, or it can drive them apart. Um, and I think that's where a lot of the social support from the th groups from the students and also the services at Hershey, like the music therapy and the family therapists, those services at Hershey are just so important because of the emotional toll that it can take on these families. So that's just something that always kind of stuck with me. So I hope you don't mind me interjecting here for that question. Not
Tessa 01:06:25 At all. And this was just such a fun conversation to have. 'cause I'm actually the teen and adult coordinator, um, on family relations. So all these families that you're talking about, being younger kids, I was just texting with Ash Fki earlier about, she's in like her vocational program, and that's just so wild to hear, like these testaments. So that was a really fun, like, conversation for me.
Greg 01:06:47 And I kid you not if, if I even, uh, if I open my college laptop, which exists somewhere, if it would start, uh, Ashley physi is, is picture would be by, uh, my desktop at the time, that would just sort of came from one of these Fort Diamonds, uh, picnics and family picnics and whatnot. That sort of served as my inspiration, right? I'm online, I'm, I'm answering emails, but that's what I look to. But, uh, that laptop hasn't been opened in, in probably six, seven plus years, uh, by now. So that's awesome to see, you know, that the engagement is, is still continuing to this day.
Sean 01:07:29 If you are enjoying this podcast, then listen up about this great opportunity. Do you know your major but not sure what your career will be? Or are you still on the fence about your major? Even if you know both scholars like you should come to connect 2022 on Saturday, March 26th, 2022 from one to 5:00 PM to meet scholar alumni like the ones you hear on the show and learn about their paths to get where they are today. We are excited that this event will be in person this year. Connect 2022 is open to students in all majors from STEM to business to liberal arts, and those who don't know their major yet, students will participate in three panel sessions of their choosing to hear advice from STO alumni and ask questions. Are you looking for opportunities to connect with alumni in your field? Connect features sessions between each panel for students to meet with the panelists to top it off free professional headshots for LinkedIn will be taken before the event starts. Be sure to visit shc.psu.edu/connect to learn more and register today. RSVPs are due by March 18th, 2022. Now, back to our conversation on following the gong.
Tessa 01:08:40 So kind of redirecting back to being a scholar and being a th volunteer, was there ever a point in your leadership journey or your trajectory of being a scholar that you considered potentially dropping one or the other of those positions? 'cause I know we talked about having the thesis and having all of the things you need to get done for thon. So was that a thought process for you? And if so, how did it go?
Elaine 01:09:03 Honestly, it never crossed my mind personally speaking, I don't know if anyone else here, it was just kind of like, once you're in it and you're doing it, you just kind of forge ahead and find a path through it. Yeah,
Charlotte 01:09:15 I can't say it, I can't say I ever considered dropping them. I think it was a large, I was in overall my junior year. Um, and it wasn't the only component, but deciding whether to apply for the exec position my senior year, it was a factor in it. Um, it wasn't the only factor anything ultimately, I just knew it wasn't the right decision for me at the time. Um, but knowing that I'd be doing a thesis and hopefully applying to jobs my senior year was one of, um, was, was indeed one of the factors that went into my decision. But it wasn't necessarily foregoing, it was just changing my thought involvement from the committee side to focusing as a thought chair for my sorority instead.
Greg 01:09:52 Yeah, I think maybe o only in the home stretch of the thesis did, uh, did, uh, the thought of dropping one or the other ever come, uh, come up. And that was after my major thought volunteerism. So, uh, but, but no, I, I got it over the finish. And, uh, yeah, other than that, just more learning to, to manage and balance, uh, through it all.
Tessa 01:10:13 Awesome. So now for some more career oriented things so that scholars can take with them after the gong. And, um, how has th affected your career and leadership style to date?
Elaine 01:10:26 I think I had to give a talk once at some event at Penn State about leadership, and I felt totally woefully under, under, um, qualified for it. But I came up with a couple of key aspects that I think I took from th and I still try to carry with me today, one being adaptable. So like, you can plan for something, but know that it's gonna go totally differently. So finding that flexibility, um, two, being approachable. I think the number one thing that a leader can do is show, show you show the people that they're leading or working with, that you're approachable. Um, and I think just no matter what level or role someone has in a company or how you work with them, everyone's a human and everyone, you know, is walking their own shoes. So just being approachable, you know, asking people how they are, um, and, you know, taking ownership, um, you know, something doesn't go right, owning up to it. And, you know, we're all human, we're not robots. We can make mistakes and learn from them. And I definitely made my fair share of mistakes and leading committee, and if I could go back, I would do things differently maybe and how I provided guidance or direction. But, um, just knowing that you can take every opportunity as a learning moment and, and move forward.
Charlotte 01:11:41 I was just gonna say, I think Elaine sum it up beautifully. I think something, um, that I realized I learned in hon was, um, Elaine kind of hit on it, but that human experience, acknowledging your employees, your coworkers, your contacts, your team members, um, that they are, and they are humans. They have a life outside of work and how do you treat them like the human they are being respectful, being approachable, um, and being considerate, but also bringing yourself to work as well. Um, so being like my authentic self, I think that's something that th did well. We were all, we were all students with each other as well. We were all peers. And so, you know, you brought your sense of humor, you brought your fears, you brought your best and bad side to meetings. And I think that's something that I've tried to do transparently in my professional career as well, because I think it's something that led to a very authentic, and, um, it was something that brought a very authentic experience for us all. But I think it's also something that allowed us to all grow, um, in a way that maybe we're not all able to outside of an environment like th So that's something that I try to emulate where I can in my professional setting too. Yeah,
Greg 01:12:44 That authenticity piece and, and rawness and realness and, and being in sort of a, the war room setting with, with your peers and sharing your vulnerabilities. I've continued that style, uh, in my professional career. Um, we'll see how it continues to bear out, but at the end of the day, that that's, you know, where people in this room and showing that, that sense of, you know, trust and, and actual true desire to build connection, especially in the, in the virtual setting. I mean, I, you know, at work I've onboarded onto a new team and new project, and it's just as important to, to sort of understand people's, you know, work and, uh, skills, but to just get to know them and, and carve out time to, to really build a, that connection. So, um, I think that mindset uhhon really, um, indexed on, uh, you know, quite, quite hard and is something I've, I've looked to carry with me, uh, through to today.
Dominic 01:13:38 Yeah, I think, I think for me, when I think of th I think of the incredible spirit of empowerment that thousands of people feel that they just have this deeply held belief that they can make a difference, uh, against pediatric cancer. Like they really hold that. And I think it's informed my leadership style because I really see leadership now after the experience and then after the experiences I've had since then as trying to unlock and unleash other people's potential. And how do you do that? You, you craft a vision that is compelling and that they align with and that energizes them, and you create a context for them to do their work and show them how their work makes a difference, and you invest in them and think about their strengths and their objectives and, um, how do you unblock for them and how do you set them up for success? And so I think it was found where I felt that while I'm in this incredible organization where the norm is, everyone is feeling like they're connected to this cause and everyone feels empowered to, to make a change. And if I can replicate that spirit in the teams I'm in, in the organizations I'm in, um, then I think I'm on the path to, to being a good leader.
Tessa 01:14:50 Awesome. Thanks for sharing that. It's really awesome to hear from people who are in this professional world. And kind of building upon that, what was the best way that you were able to leverage your THO and other leadership experiences in internships, job interviews, grad school interviews? What advice would you give
Greg 01:15:08 In terms of leveraging it? It's all of the above, uh, right? I think, uh, the experiences that you have, right? Uh, as a thought leader sort of gave you, um, a lot of, uh, to talk about and come forward with in, in the interview setting, when, um, you know, they wanna see results, they wanna see action, they want to see you communicate, uh, they wanna see your presence, um, they wanna see that you're a good team member and, and somebody that, that they'll wanna work, work with. And, you know, interviewing with an alumni, uh, at Penn State and they see down on your resume, it's likely to strike up a, a conversation about their involvement or, uh, you know, their maybe niece or nephew who, who happened to be a dancer. So, um, that certainly helped. But if it wasn't on, I mean, the, it was frankly, my internships were really indexed. Um, the doors themselves opened through schreyer and, you know, schreyer specific postings, um, made available to, to start my career at P N C and in financial services. Um, so sort of Schreyer opened the doors and then Don sealed the deal, I guess, in terms of leadership experiences and being able to talk about the Atlas and, and communications leadership journey, uh, throughout.
Charlotte 01:16:15 I think also what Don is wonderful at doing is it, um, helps you grow your network. Not just to say, like, join in and you'll meet a lot of people, but that, that tends to be what authentically happens. You meet other student leader, other student leaders in other orgs, you get a better understanding of how other organizations even work. And I think that's something that I've been able to leverage in that, like I was on, on the communications group, I didn't really know how Don donor and alumni relations work. I didn't know how supply logistics worked. Um, and just that understanding, you pick up, you pick up all these little pieces and it makes you more curious and you wanna learn more. And I think that's something that has continued into, um, into my professional life. And you can start to speak to how, how you learn.
Charlotte 01:16:55 And I think that's, that's a core piece as well. I know, like in my jobs, one of the key things I've often been evaluated against is like problem solving and, um, how you collaborate with teams. And I think that like, the root of that really started with me, um, athon. And I think you can speak to that of like, this is something that I started doing, you know, 10 years ago and you've been able to build on that. So it kind of like gives you a headstart in where you're even starting. 'cause most people don't have those experiences, um, in a large capacity until post-graduation. Also, it's great when you event, when you inevitably need a fun fact. It's a great opportunity to still be a fun evangelist in your post-grad world where you're like, guess what? I was part of a very large student run org. So that's kind of always my fun fact.
Dominic 01:17:37 Um, I think I, I guess the only two things I would add, the one, and Greg alluded to this a little bit about, you just have a lot of ownership and you're given all these projects that you can show, you can demonstrate what you did and what the results were and what the impact was. And that's really how you show up to these interviews and how you put together good applications. And so it just gives you a lot of repetitions around taking something, changing it in some way, analyzing it, problem solving, and then executing. Uh, it gives you a lot of just great experience with that. And then the other thing that I would say, which you haven't talked about too much here, is the, the amount of relationship and stakeholder management that you do as a student leader, especially in thon, is, is really tremendous.
Dominic 01:18:20 Uh, especially in my role with donor alumni relations, managing relationships with companies and with large donors and with the university and the development office, you start to, uh, really how to understand, uh, people's objectives and ways of working and communication styles and their leadership styles and how to broker agreements and how to just, how to kind of talk and, and operate at a higher level. Uh, and that, that's really helpful in interviews because you just get a lot of practice interfacing with different people in different functions and, and finding your way through these organizations. So I would say that, you know, project management and, and relationship management comes in spades as a leader, and that sets you up really well for, for some of these future career opportunities.
Elaine 01:19:07 And I just have to reiterate, it's, it's the reps, right? Like if you're an engineer, you're doing problem sets, you're learning things like the back of your hand, just the amount of communication with different people with, you know, the president of the university or an organization or for diamond's family or a donor, being able to flex and communicate at that level, um, you know, conversation after conversation, it, it, it, it really ingrains in you skills that take, you know, time to develop had you not had these experiences as a scholar or within on. Awesome.
Tessa 01:19:37 Thanks for sharing those. I will definitely be keeping them in mind. <laugh>. Um, so I think we have some quick rapid fire wrap up questions. And to kick it off, what is, if you can leave us with a final piece of advice, what is it?
Charlotte 01:19:50 I would say just get out of, you know, it sounds trite, but get outta your comfort zone. But I think something that I really took to heart when I went to school was there's that moment when you first get to campus where everyone's open to new things. Everyone's open to meeting new people and to getting involved and really take advantage of that. Find things that pique your interest that maybe you weren't expecting, whether that be a class or an organization. And really don't be afraid to dive in. Um, use those resources available to you, whether it be older schreyer students or different peer sets, um, to better understand the campus around you and where you might be able to make a difference and where it can help complement your strengths, uh, your weaknesses, and your passion points.
Dominic 01:20:26 I would, I would say my piece of advice is to take risks early in your career. Um, really at the beginning of your career, you're just trying to maximize your slope of learning and your slope of growth. And that usually comes in the higher risk opportunities, so be thoughtful about it, but that usually is where a lot of the learning comes from.
Greg 01:20:44 Yeah, I think, um, you know, never stop, never stop learning. Uh, that is something that I, you know, it's gonna took to be true and take those, those risks in a, you know, safe space and environment through, uh, Penn State, but then, you know, continuing to sort of push the envelope. And, um, kind of eight years into my career, I pivoted, went back to school, was a student again. Uh, I'm now a student in, in my new career. So, um, you know, it, it's never, uh, too late to sort of take on those new experiences and, and, and in a place where, you know, at the end of the day, maybe the stakes aren't as high as, as a professional setting, focusing on areas you aren't the most, um, maybe experienced or, or best skilled or best suited to do. So. Um, I know oftentimes we wanna just keep indexing down on, you know, what I'm really good at. But I think, um, my piece of advice was, would raise your hand and, and take the presentation task from your team members in a group project if it's something you're, you're not comfortable doing. Um, and, and those experiences, at least, if it's not something that you'll continue on, you'll have a appre an appreciation of, you'll understand what, what's required from others and for others. And, and then you can, you know, work to support, uh, others and, and their, um, endeavors, um, to sort of move the team forward. I
Elaine 01:21:57 Can't really think of anything else besides what these guys have said, but I think one thing that stuck with me is it's okay not to know. It's okay not to know what you wanna do. Uh, I've pivoted several times in my career already, still don't know what I wanna be when I grow up. Um, it's okay not to know the answer to an email or communication, or maybe you're in a tough situation and you know, uh, an extracurricular meeting or you're trying to decide something in your, you know, undergrad education. It's okay not to know. You'll figure it out. Um, every decision you make obviously impacts the next step, but like the skills you learn as a scholar and just in being involved at Penn State are so transferable to anything. Um, they will be transferable to whatever your desire is to do. Next
Sean 01:22:41 Common theme that came up was networking relationships, and obviously on the backend and the production end. I've trimmed out a lot of questions because we've been talking for a while and you get Penn Staters talking, especially about Dawn, that conversation can go for a long time. So students like Tessa wanted to reach out to any of you, um, with you. Obviously you can read their bios and their specific, uh, companies that they work for in the, the episode description. If you want to take this conversation with any of them further, how can a scholar get ahold of you?
Greg 01:23:10 I think I'm not supposed to say the dms are open, 'cause I, I actually don't think they are. Uh, but you can find me on, uh, LinkedIn, uh, uh, Greg Tolman, and, uh, you know, happy to connect accordingly. Yeah,
Dominic 01:23:21 Same here. Happy to connect.
Elaine 01:23:22 Don't ever contact me. No, I'm just kidding. Uh, also you can find me on LinkedIn or, or, you know, Sean, if you can put my email address in there, I'm happy to. I love connecting with alum or students.
Charlotte 01:23:36 You can also, um, you can reach me at my LinkedIn.
Tessa 01:23:38 So before we get to the ice cream question, this is a special question related to the th episode, but for anyone who's listening and doesn't know the four diamonds are associated with courage, wisdom, honesty, and strength, is there a diamond that you most connect to
Charlotte 01:23:55 That's pretty tough? I think I maybe say honesty. I think if you're able to be honest with yourself, with others, you can hopefully work on your wisdom, your strength, your courage. Um, I think it takes courage to be honest. Um, but I think a lot of it is at the root of, um, of honesty.
Elaine 01:24:12 I'm gonna hit on a point Charlotte mentioned earlier, but, um, for me, I think it'd be courage because I think what Charlotte said is that when you put yourselves in some situation that might feel uncomfortable because it feels beyond your scope. Um, that's when you learn the most. And so having the courage to recognize that, throw yourself into the deep end, you'll learn something. Um, you'll come out with, you know, a whole bounds of knowledge. I
Greg 01:24:37 Think, uh, you know, in the, in the spirit of authenticity, I'll, I'll say, uh, honesty,
Dominic 01:24:41 I think, I think honesty is my aspirational one, um, because I'm always trying to be more candid and, and more transparent and kind of go there in conversations. But I think one thing I saw from a lot of the Fort Diamonds families, uh, was strength. And I, this quote sticks in my mind of we must be our very best in our darkest times. And I think that was just proven to me so many times, um, with the strength that they showed. So when I think of Don, I think of strength.
Sean 01:25:08 If you're a regular listener on this podcast, you know, the very last question that I am going to ask, but first I want to hear Tessa, which diamond would you pick?
Tessa 01:25:16 Um, I think I'd probably pick honesty. I try to be pretty candid, as you mentioned, and I consider myself to be a pretty straight up person.
Sean 01:25:25 Now. I'll let all five of you answer this last question here as this tradition. If you were a flavor of Burke Creamery ice cream, which would you be? And as a Staller alum or Tess in your case, a current staller, why would you be that flavor?
Tessa 01:25:39 I can kick this one off. Um, like was mentioned earlier, when you're in college, kind of the mindsets sleep is you can sleep when you're dead. So probably coffee break.
Greg 01:25:48 I'm, I'm gonna go with, uh, monster Mash. The, the, the fall seasonal flavor right around Halloween, a little cookies and cream that is sort of somehow orange. I'm sure it's all natural, but with a caramel swirl, uh, because I Halloween's just a fun time to be at, at Penn State with football. Um, Penn State's either ready to, to take it to the next level or, you know, the football team's sending us into a depression, but at least we can get dressed up and, and have fun. So I'm, I'm going Monster Mash. Greg,
Elaine 01:26:18 You stole mine. I'm super pissed. I thought I had a really niche flavor. Um, I'm gonna have to, then, I'm gonna have to go with then peanut butter swirl. 'cause it, I think it was one of the first flavors I had when I visited Penn State. And when you get a quart of that, there's literally like rivers of peanut butter that run through it, and it's quite amazing.
Charlotte 01:26:37 I'm not a peanut butter lover, but I don't know rivers of peanut butter sounds of healing. Um, I would probably go with death by chocolate. Sounds like a pretty good way to go. Um, multiple types of chocolate in it. Little surprise in every bite, you know, I would, I would also say we should probably, apparently there's a flavor called B J C Jams that feels appropriate for this group, but I have not tried it, so cannot endorse it. Honestly.
Dominic 01:27:01 I, I had to look up the flavors again and what caught my eye was monkey business, which is banana peanut butter and chocolate. Three things that I love. And it has that kind of salty, sweet combination and it just seems fun because it's fun to be business, but it's fun to be a goofy monkey sometimes too.
Sean 01:27:19 I put in our chat here, I'm really surprised nobody picked the thaw gold ribbon ripple, but apparently
Dominic 01:27:25 That would be too easy, too predictable.
Elaine 01:27:28 <laugh>,
Greg 01:27:29 Oh, we're getting, we're getting docked for not picking scholarship, I guess either.
Sean 01:27:33 I, I let you all pick what you feel you are most, uh, identify with as far as ice cream goes. Tessa, thank you for being my first ever co-host on this show. Charlotte, Elaine, Dominic, Greg, thank you so much. We left a lot uncovered in this conversation. I highly recommend if you've listened to this point, reach out to them on LinkedIn, connect with them. They're great people, especially if you're interested in pursuing hon Leadership careers or specifically to the careers that they have that you can read about in the episode description. Thank you all so, so much for an extended conversation today. Really appreciate it. Thank
Greg 01:28:08 Thank, You. Appreciate it, Sean. Thank you. Tessa theme. Great.
Charlotte 01:28:11 Thank you both. It was great to meet y'all.
*GONG SOUND EFFECT*
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