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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Jaz Azari 00:00:55 Hi, I'm Jaz Azari and I'm serving as a special guest host for this episode. Your guest today is your usual host, Sean Goheen. Sean Class of 2011 is the coordinator of constituent relations and annual giving for the Schreyer Honors College. In addition to producing, hosting, and editing this very podcast, which he describes as his in job side hustle, Sean manages the alumni relations portfolio for the college, including volunteer programs, events, broad-based fundraising and marketing, including running the Scholar Alumni Society among many other responsibilities. He earned his BA in Political Science with honors and BA in history from Penn State's College of Liberal Arts in 2011. Sean also earned his m e D in student Personnel administration in higher education from UNC Greensboro in 2014. He is currently working on his MBA through Penn State Smeal College of Business and World Campus. In our chat, we discuss life at Penn State Berks and the power of professional relationships, navigating the thesis and trying to figure out your life after college.
Jaz 00:02:10 We also discuss careers in student affairs and alumni relations, including event planning and volunteer management, as well as life moving out of the state to other universities starting a project like the following the Gong Podcast with no background in that area. This episode is great for any scholar trying to figure out what's next, and there's a fun story for any parks and rec fans too. Join us as we get insight and advice from your regular host on this special episode, which will end of course with the ice cream question, which I learned was inspired by Onward States. What dinosaur would you be? Question. As always, you can read Sean's full bio and episode topics in the show notes on your podcast app. With that, let's put Sean in the interview chair from the host chair following the gong. Hi everyone, my name is Jaz Aery and I will be your host on this week's episode of Following the Gong. Today we have an exciting interview, one many of you listeners have waited for for two years. Our guest is the creative mind behind and voice of following the gong, your very own Sean Goheen. Sean, welcome to your podcast.
Sean 00:03:26 Thank you. It's a, it's a little weird being on the opposite side of this, but I'm excited, so thank you Jaz.
Jaz 00:03:32 Absolutely, we're excited too. So the first thing I wanna ask is by the time this episode is released, you've done 50 podcasts,
Sean 00:03:41 Uh, if not 50, pretty darn close. Uh, I think at the time of recording this is going to be, I'm estimating in the deep forties, uh, if not at 50 yet. So pretty close there,
Jaz 00:03:54 50 in two years. And when we get into the interview later, we're gonna hear about the fact that this isn't even your full-time job. So thank you for
Sean 00:04:01 No <laugh>. No, it's not. This is my in job side hustle, so thank you for, for bar <laugh> bearing with me on that. So
Jaz 00:04:09 Let's start with giving your listeners sort of an overall look at your studio. They must be thinking, where is Sean? What is Sean doing? Love the fact that you have a lot of blue and white.
Sean 00:04:19 Yeah, so I record from two places if it's a Monday, a Wednesday or a Thursday. Typically I'm in Atherton Hall here at University Park, uh, just like most of the Schreyer staff. My office is here in Atherton and if it's a Tuesday or a Friday, uh, I work at home those days. So I live pretty close to campus. I can actually see Beaver Stadium from my son's room through the window, just just off in the distance. You, if you get the right angle you can see the uh, nightlight out on this outside of the scoreboard. So pretty close to campus, kind of two different recording spaces if you will. Both have lots of swag, lots of books, different things around, try to make it interesting, especially when a lot of my meetings and obviously most of the recordings for this are on Zoom and similar programs. So I try to make things festive and provide, you know, little talking points that can keep the conversation going. And
Jaz 00:05:12 It looks like you're also wearing, is that a Penn State sweatshirt?
Sean 00:05:15 Of course it is, of course <laugh>, uh, we're actually recording this during spring break week, so there are hardly any people around, so I figured I could be a little bit more casual here in Atherton this week. So I am wearing a Penn State, uh, shirt and sweatshirt, keeping it on brand I suppose.
Jaz 00:05:29 Oh my gosh, that's fantastic. So now we have a look in your studio. Let's zoom out a little bit, no pun intended, and talk about your journey to podcasting. And I'm actually gonna start with before you came to Penn State, when we spoke, you said you're originally from Morgantown, is that right?
Sean 00:05:45 That is, uh, if you are from the southeastern part of Pennsylvania or perhaps from South Jersey as well, uh, you would better know it as exit 2 98 on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Jaz 00:05:56 So your listeners are saying, I've taken that exit.
Sean 00:05:59 Yes, uh, yeah, if you are from Lancaster, Burkes, Chester County area, you're prob hopefully familiar with it, at least for that. Uh, so that's where, that's where I'm from and I was trying to describe it as, there's an intersection right in Morgantown, if you're familiar with this area, it's Route 10, in Route 23. And I was trying to think of it as like this is where the quote unquote outside Philly really ends and where the quote unquote Amish country starts. Because if you go one direction, if you go east a mile down 23, you're in Chester County and if you go a mile down the other direction on 23, you're in Lancaster County cuz of the way Burkes County comes to this very sharp V at the bottom of it. And so growing up it was kind of like you could have easy access to Philly one direction in Lancaster County and you know, shady Maple and those kinds of things in the other direction. So really an interesting blend of cultures that you got in that town. Now
Jaz 00:06:45 How did living in Morgantown and growing up in these different cultures draw you to Penn State and the Honors College specifically? I
Sean 00:06:52 Had a, I've had a lot of faults on this show who have these really great stories of, I always wanted to do X career or I, I'm a fourth generation Penn Stater or I applied to 15 schools and I'm not any of those. I honestly, I'm first gen and I was always told you're going to college and you're gonna go to college in Pennsylvania because I had a 5 29. I was very fortunate in that regard. And if you don't know what those are, you should look into those if you ever plan on having kids. But I really didn't do a good job of college searching, to be honest. I kind of phoned it in and I didn't really look at a lot of places. I applied to four different universities and Penn State was one of them. And I actually, my first choice campus was Penn State Burkes.
Sean 00:07:29 Uh, if you've listened to every back episode of the show, first of all, thank you, but you'll notice that there's definitely a bit of a, a twinge of campus stuff that comes up in there and that's why I started there my junior year of high school. I was fortunate enough to come up with some family friends to what turned out to be I think a homecoming game against Michigan and didn't know it at the time. Uh, that was like my first exposure to University Park and in, in reflecting back I was like, I think this is a little too big for me to start. And so I chose to start at Burkes a little bit smaller. You know, I had a lot of faults from my high school and other high schools in the area that went there and that kind of helped ease that transition into the collegiate atmosphere
Jaz 00:08:08 And that's amazing because it shows that even where you start, you don't know where you're going to end up. So Sean, your journey is hopefully really inspirational to people who maybe did also start in their junior year. Yeah. What is your first memory of coming to State College? So
Sean 00:08:23 Other than those football games in high school came to a couple, uh, my best friend's parents were season ticket holders for a long time. His stepdad is uh, Penn State alum food Science. And in terms of actually being a student when I was at Berks, I came up a couple times for CCS G meetings and if you're student you park and you're like, what the heck is that? Uh, CCCs G is the Council of Commonwealth Student Government. So if you're familiar with U P A or if you're maybe an alum listening and you knew U S G, it's this, the Commonwealth Campus equivalent to that. So it's a little kind of like the UN but for the 19 undergraduate Commonwealth campuses, so they meet five or six times a year, I think it's five now, it was six. And essentially represent the voices of the collective campuses and their interests because, well there are a lot of similarities to park.
Sean 00:09:06 There are a lot of unique issues to a specific campus or a type of campus. Many of them don't have residence halls or only have one residence hall. So the experiences are different and so the needs from the Penn State administration are different. And so that was my first real taste of View Park as a student. And then I moved up here going into my second year as a student. I was junior standing, took way too many AP credits coming in and uh, kind of accelerated through my journey and my distinct memory was the day I moved up. Uh, the drive from my home to my residence hall here at campus, uh, was about the same length as the album How the West Was Won, which is led Zeppelin's live cd. This was the area of CDs. I didn't have an ox jack in my car at the time, so I remember moving up and there was other kids who were moving in. I moved up early cuz I was coming into Schreyer, those other kids who were moving in early for blue band auditions and that was kind of my first exposure to it. And there was a version of Showtime for students who were coming in as you know, second or third year admits into the college. And uh, one of my first exposures to one of my colleagues now Donna Meyer, uh, who I worked very closely with who runs that program and has for the past, I think 15 or 20 years or so going on now.
Jaz 00:10:12 For your alumni who are not familiar with Showtime, what is Showtime?
Sean 00:10:16 Uh, so Showtime is our first year orientation program, primarily first year. We do some other opportunities for students who come in as second and third year like I did. And so many of our alumni actually do stands for schreyer Honors Orientation. So it is a acronym just like so many other things here at Penn State <laugh>. And it's a two, it was three day, it's currently two day opportunity before classes start to help get our new first year students acclimated to not just campus but also to the honors college and help build community with other scholars that they're going to be living and learning with over the next couple of years.
Jaz 00:10:45 What an amazing program. It's always great to know that Penn State has schreyer as its own, like you said, smaller community really has that family feel to it.
Sean 00:10:55 Yeah, absolutely. I think that's what's the really cool part and what really drives me in my work with alumni is we have this community I think is the overarching word that really comes to mind because we are cross-disciplinary. I think you have this unique blend of really go-getter people. And so even if I got asked a lot, uh, what's like an average scholar and I'm like, there really isn't a typical or an average scholar if you had to distill some common factors. A lot of altruism, a lot of go-getter attitude, a lot of problem solving, but the interests and expertise is span just about everything you can think. And I, I try to reflect that in the guests that I have on this, on this podcast here to show that breadth. And I'm not trying to like, you know, do a marketing campaign or anything, it really is just special how, you know, one week I can talk to an O B G Y N surgeon and the next week a fantasy author. And the thing that they have in common is that they went through this SCHREYER experience whether, you know, it might have been called the University Scholars program at the time or it's schreyer now. It, it's a really special unifying thing even within the broader Penn State connection that you can have.
Jaz 00:11:55 Now, one aspect that I really wanted to dig into before we get to what you do currently is obviously the Schreyer Honors College is known for the feces we produce. And you and I had talked about this earlier, you have a really interesting experience, particularly with switching thesis advisors. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Sean 00:12:15 Yeah, so I've had a few guests on here who've been political science majors like I was and I actually double majored but I did my honors work in poli sci and because I was involved with C C S G one of the programs that they were heavily involved with and it's still a program that has still continued to this day and that's capital day and it's a day where Penn Staters show up at the capitol in Harrisburg and meet with their representatives and you know, advocate for stronger funding and support for the university. And this got me thinking in terms of my thesis and that department does a really good job with the thesis prep. There's a class that you take your junior year and at least I think that was, it was the case circuit 2009, 2010. And a lot of my colleagues in our group, there's probably like 13 or 15 of us and most of them were interested in international things and I was the only one who wanted to do anything related to state level.
Sean 00:13:03 And there was a lot of funding challenges at the time. And I really wanted to know, you know, do these efforts like Capital Day actually mean anything? Do they work? And so I looked at the impact of state legislators on higher ed funding and I, you know, being a 21 year old at the time tried to keep it fairly simple and I coded thousands of biographies of state legislators over a period of time as either, you know, did you get anything from a bachelor's or hire from a public university, whether that was, you know, Westchester University, Penn State, Pitt Temple, the University of Nebraska, ucla, whatever it might be, did you get a medical degree, a jd and ran a bunch of statistical analysis and found that over time it, it's unsurprisingly it's good for public universities holding other things consistent that you want public university alumni in your state legislatures because you know, they went through it, they've experienced the benefits of it, course you have a, a stronger case to make because you can leverage that experience in your efforts.
Sean 00:14:03 Now finding a thesis advisor, this was not my original topic, so going back to your question, Jaz, I had a similar idea and I don't even remember what my other idea was honestly, but I went through all of the biographies on the poli sci website and read all the, all the professors who did anything with national or state level politics and I narrowed down and I found one, I was like, okay, this professor, she seems like the closest to what I, I'm interested in. Again, I don't even remember the idea and I do the paper for the class and part of it's like, you know, I go and talk to her and she's like, Sean, that's a really, really cool question. That data is impossible to collect
Jaz 00:14:42 <laugh> as it is.
Sean 00:14:44 And she suggested, uh, the question that ended up actually being my thesis. That was her idea. And then she said, okay, this is what could work. You should go work with this other faculty member. He can actually like help you with that cuz that actually lines up fairly close to his research. And so that helped him, because I was doing all this in my junior year, I was way ahead and you know, I was able to pivot and adjust there. But you know, just being able to do the, the research upfront on who was the best advisor that helped solidify the question that I ultimately did my, my topic on.
Jaz 00:15:15 It also sounds like these professors were really good mentors in the sense that they listened to you, they understood what it was you were passionate about and then gave you a good steer. How do you view mentorship? That's
Sean 00:15:27 A good question and I, you know, the funny thing is I actually ended up going back to that professor and she was my second reader so I still was able to bring her in as somebody who even was tangentially in the broader scheme of things related to my topic. So mentorship's interesting and I, I'd love to at some point go back through all of these pest episodes and distill out all the mentorship questions. I feel like I could write like a small book on it at this point. But to me, I think there's an interesting part with mentorship, with coaching, with advocacy and sponsorship and there are all these like nuanced terms that all mean something a little bit differently. But the Venn diagram overlaps. I'm currently doing my second grad degree, I'm getting an MBA here at Penn State and I keep thinking about how much, you know, like do we really have to keep teaching this?
Sean 00:16:08 But then you also think if you don't teach it, it gets lost, right? Like humans, uh, a journal article, the Rosetta Stone, whatever it is can last a very long time. People don't. So passing on that informal knowledge, it's one thing to learn from an article or a book or class, but being able to compliment that with people who've actually lived whatever it is, you know, whether it's walking through med school through an lsat, navigating working with the Marine Corps like you did Jaz, these are real life applications to that learning. I think it's really important to blend that. I wish I had prepared a better answer. I'm trying doing this all off the cuff here. And it's also like a part of paying it forward too. Like you've been given advice along the way, how can you pay it forward? And you know, my career ultimately is not the most exciting compared to a lot of the people that I talk to.
Sean 00:16:54 So I view this as my way of paying it forward is distilling out this into a way that instead of one conversation here, one conversation there, if I can get 15 or 50 people to listen to this conversa, that that advice and that knowledge disseminates at a much greater level. And that's part of the goal and how I even pitched this podcast in the beginning was this is mentorship on demand, thinking about our Gen Z students. They grew up in a world with Netflix, right? And why not apply that to informational interviews with people who are in the same clubs? They've been th captains, they've been in U P U A, they've done fresh Start like I did, you know, they've showtime mentors or they lived in Simmons or they, you know, were in the student section for some famous football game. These are all relatable things, right?
Sean 00:17:37 And I think that's special. I lived outta state for a long time and anytime something tangentially related to Penn State came up, I'm like, oh that guy or that person went to Penn State or that person's dad went to Penn State and you find that special. It's like, so if you can find that connection, I think that eases that in. So for me, mentorship, you know, I take it as a responsibility. Also, I've had students who've expressed interest in going into student affairs and I'm like, okay, well I'm gonna give you the very direct answer and my thoughts on, on that field. A lot of people are always like, oh you wanna do this too here, I'm so excited to share this with you. I'm like, yeah, there's a lot of great parts but there's also a lot of challenges too. And I wanna make sure you get that full picture on that career path. I wanna make sure you have an informed decision too, right? And in terms of being mentored, you gotta learn from people who came before you and then put your own stamp on it. So it's very long-winded answer. But yeah, something I think that's really important in the whole point of this podcast honestly. And
Jaz 00:18:28 I will plug that if anyone listening has not heard following the gong before, you absolutely need to go to the Schreyer website or any app that has podcasts and definitely listening earlier episodes, I remember some of the ones I was listening to and like you said Sean, we might be in a mentor position, but really lifelong learning is what keeps you intellectually stimulated. You, you find executive coaching, I mean there are CEOs that pay quite a lot of money because they know that they don't know everything and there's always new perspectives. The world is changing so quickly. I mean I think we had 300 words added to the dictionary this year. I don't know what all of them mean. So yes, lifelong mentorship really is a theme that's come up quite a bit in your podcasts. So let me switch a andt to your life prior to coming to Penn State. So right now you are the coordinator of constituent relations and annual giving for the Schreyer Honors College. That's a mouthful. What does it mean?
Sean 00:19:31 That is a really, really good question and it is uh, a very mouthful of a title. In short, it means that I work with alumni and donors to the Schreyer Honors College. We have about 16,000 alumni at time of recording. We are usually about at or just under 2000 current students. Those students have parents and families and we have also plenty of friends of the college that have some connection to us otherwise, like the Schreyer family for example. What that means, I do a ton <laugh>, a ton of different things primarily with our alumni. My day job looks different every day. I've learned, that's a really silly question to ask, just like tell me about a typical day. There's very few jobs that have a tip day cuz it changes throughout the year. But things that I'm responsible for here in the honors college, I write all of our fundraising appeals is what we call them.
Sean 00:20:21 So if you're an alum or perhaps a parent and you get a fundraising letter in the email that's from the Honors college, 98% chance I wrote it. But I manage that whole process along with our partners in the Office of Annual Giving. So hence the annual giving part in my title. And then the rest is all the alumni relations primarily. So a lot of my counterparts here at Penn State, you might see titles like Director of Alumni Relations or something like that. So I manage our scholar alumni society. If you've heard kind of the opening and closing that I use in every episode, I always describe it as like I'm kind of the executive director of that group if you will. I don't I, I think that's the best way to describe it. A lot of nonprofit groups, like they have the staff, I am that person.
Sean 00:20:59 I'm like that person for this group. Uh, so that is a affiliate group of the alumni association. Every college and campus at Penn State has a society under the Alumni Association. And obviously you're probably feeling real with chapters like those in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, basically every county in Pennsylvania and then big cities like New York, Washington, dc, Atlanta. And in some smaller places that might be by state. So there I think there's like an Iowa chapter or two, right for example. So I worked specifically with the Schreyer group. I work very closely with our alumni board. I've had members either current or past who have been guests on this show. And so I work very closely, particularly with the officer team for that group. And a lot of our activities funnel through or connected to that, I manage our admissions interview program, which is a volunteer opportunity for alumni.
Sean 00:21:46 If you came in as a first year scholar, you may have been interviewed. So I manage that along with our admissions office. I do a lot of our events that we host here in the college for alumni. I also do our Parents and families weekend event every fall for our parents as part of Penn State, you know at University Park, at least our parents and family weekend. And then I'm probably not even stretching the surface. I ca I wear, if you work in higher ed, you typically wear a lot of hats. That's the expression. So constantly flipping hats day in, day out. I'm sure there's plenty of interesting things that I've left out of here. But a lot of it drives through that Staller Alumni Society and all of the great stuff that they're doing and working with volunteers. So in terms of like stills, I, I have to be an event planner and manager.
Sean 00:22:29 I have to be a volunteer manager, I have to be a marketer, I have to be a writer. And then there's also the side hustle here with the podcast as well. So I also have to be a relationship builder. I work very closely, like I mentioned with our missions office. I work with central development offices here like the Alumni Association and annual Giving. I work with Donna and Showtime things work very closely with our director of career development, which at the time of recording is currently vacant. We're in the process of interviews hopefully by the time this is published that is a filled role. Many of you, you know, you know Lisa Hinske, our previous ones who work very closely. So yes, do lots and and lots of different things.
Jaz 00:23:04 I am not entirely sure how you have time to do podcasts. You probably have a clone.
Sean 00:23:09 I'm not either
Jaz 00:23:10 A twin, somebody that can stand in for you. I am gonna get to podcast. But the one of the questions that came to mind is you're talking about major events and being this jack of all trades, but you did have a career prior to coming to Penn State.
Sean 00:23:25 Yeah, so I alluded to this in my mentoring question. So when I graduated from Penn State, I had no idea what I was doing with my life. I graduated early and a piece of advice, if you are in a financial position to do the full four years, highly recommend you only get to do college once I understand if you are in a position where getting through as quickly as possible is what's best for you, do that. Every person's situation's a little bit different. But if you have the the privilege to do four years, recommend doing it. And you know, if you have questions about about financial aid, come talk to us. We have a student aid counselor right here in our suite in Atherton. Austin is great, you should come talk to her. Put that aside. So I actually common theme on the show is relationships.
Sean 00:24:06 I actually had reached out to the director of campus life at Penn State Burkes who I knew as a first year from being involved in a bunch of clubs like every first year Schreyer Scholar or future Schreyer Scholar does. And it was like hey, I am trying to figure out my life. And I went to go into student affairs, kind of had trouble getting into grad school cuz I didn't have enough experience. I'm sure you need more help in your office cuz you're like two people, three people can we like help each other out here. And I ended up interning for her for a full year, which again that was definitely from a place of privilege, I was not paid for the most part they found ways to pay me for projects as as they could. And so that was incredibly fortunate. I would recommend if you are hiring interns, pay them if you're interning, try and get a paid one if you can be the difference, right?
Sean 00:24:49 And if you need help, we have internship grants here in the honors college, so come talk to us about those too. So I did that for a year and then I went to grad school, went to UNC Greensboro and I worked in student activities and Greek life for two years of my graduate assistantship. I'm not Greek, I was independent here as a student. So that was an eye-opening experience, especially working with Panhellenic Recruitment, that was interesting. But there were some great women who ran that and I learned a lot from them. And then coming outta that job search and student affairs job searching is its own unique beast and if you have questions I'm happy to connect with you, you know, one-on-one about that. But ended up getting a job at the University of Kentucky and past episode one of my colleagues there, Katie Poole was on here, she's an athletic trainer for the volleyball team there, national championship winning volleyball team I should say.
Sean 00:25:34 And was there for a couple of years. But my main job there, uh, I wore many hats but my job was pretty much like here my job is divvied up into different responsibilities. I had one responsibility at UK and that was advised the student activities board, there was two full-time and a GA who worked with that group. And so if you're at your park, you know spa, the Student Programming Association, very equivalent group to that. So I worked with that group for a little over three years and our job was, well I advised them so I did all of the advisor stuff. So contracts, logistics, working with the officer team trainings, risk management, helping out with some of our other signature programs that were in the same office like Dance Blue, which is their dance marathon at uk, different service activities. But their goal was to put on events throughout the year that built community and engagement at UK for UK students.
Sean 00:26:24 And we had four core values, teamwork, enrichment, diversity and stewardship and you know, making sure the students, they managed a pretty robust budget and working with them to make sure that we were putting on events for the diverse students we had at uk and that could be anything from a craft night. We called them Pinterest parties to small scale speakers to large Dale concerts and speakers and carnivals and the commuter parking lots and just all kinds of things. And it was particularly interesting because I had to put on my schreyer problem solving hat quite a bit after the first six months there. That was the only time I had a student center. So if you're listening, you even if you didn't go to University Park or you're not at you park, you know the hub. And we didn't have a hub for most of my time at uk.
Sean 00:27:05 It was being torn down and rebuilt. So we had to constantly navigate logistics, creative problem solving to find locations to do even the simplest event and navigating campus politics around who owned a space and, and different things that normally we would just do in the student center and it was a student organization. So you know, we would have like first dibs in that space and then trying to navigate different places on campus, be like, hey, you don't normally do events here but why can't we do this here? So that was an interesting experience and definitely put on all the liberal arts and schreyer problem solving capacity to try and navigate the students through that time and eventually needed a career change. Kind of can't do that forever. That's definitely a young person's job for the most part. And then I saw the job here and came back to Schreyer. But I think Ja you might have had a a some kind of deeper dive question there. So I'll let you get back to hosting <laugh>.
Jaz 00:27:52 Absolutely. No, I, there's so much to unpack here and it's amazing again how many skill sets you were taking from schreyer, applying it to these major events, smaller events. And when you were saying that you really had no housing for some of these, a major event could include I'm guessing a celebrity. And the reason why I'm saying this for your audience who can't see what I'm seeing, I think that's a picture of Nick Offerman in the background. Is that right?
Sean 00:28:19 It sure is. Uh, right next to, I have my honors medal, uh, Dean Mather and I are the two alumni on staff, so I proudly display my medal here someday I really need to put in a shadow box or something. I have my autographed Nick Offerman sign and you know, being in student activities definitely have to do a lot of marketing and I brought that to my alumni engagement job here at Schreyer. I have my signed Nick Offerman sign and I have my signed Abby Wambach one and those events were actually in the same week, so
Jaz 00:28:47 Oh my gosh. Is there a good story that you can share with us about one of those events?
Sean 00:28:52 Yeah, so just a fun one. So going into student activities, it's not the highest paid job in the world. So if you wanna make a lot of money and be a donor to Schreyer, maybe not the best career path for you, but very rewarding while you're doing it and working with the students. And one of the things we did at UK every year was we had a signature comedy show my first year we brought Jim Gaffigan, uh, right after I started and then uh, the next year we brought Nick Erman. And if you're like, who is that? Well if you know Parks and Rec, he's the actor who plays Ron Swanson in this job you work with a variety of vendors and talent agencies. So if you're doing an event with like inflatables, like you've probably seen on the Hub lawn at some point we would do stuff like that.
Sean 00:29:32 And there's companies that do that kind of activity. And then there's companies that they represent talent, they're talent agents. I was the representative of the university to these talent agencies. That's not something we could really let the students do just from a liability and risk management perspective. And so you would get contracts, sometimes they'd be a page, sometimes they'd be 20 pages. And so kinda had a crash course in legalese doing that. So typically the process we would do is we would put together a, a letter, like an actual physical letter. We'd stand in and email it, but we do have physical letter saying, Hey, we want to bring your person to campus. After the students would vet and we would do a big survey every semester to see who the students actually wanted. Would you actually come to an event with Nick Ferman or do you wanna see I think the next year, uh, or year two later we they brought Tiffany Haddish like right after I left, would you come, would you pay $10 to come see this person?
Sean 00:30:21 So you write this letter to the agent, it's kind of the formal part and you say we're willing to spend this amount of money and these are the things that includes and this is what you'd be responsible for. I would al we always include it. Whatever we're paying you needs to include your, your travel. I refuse, I do not have the bandwidth to plan your travel. We'll get your meals. Like that's usually part of bringing in talent. Like we will get your dinner and the snacks and the green room and stuff, that's fine, but you, you do your own travel. But Nick Erman was just the nicest person. Like, like you lot, some celebrities didn't get bad raps. He was the nicest guy. He didn't want car service. A lot of times people, they they want you to get picked up or you know, you get them like a limo or a driver or something to bring them from the hotel to the venue.
Sean 00:30:59 And he didn't want that. We're like, okay sure, we'll just make sure he is on the parking list. Okay. And he, I get this phone call as we're like going over the pre-event meeting, I should say with the students the night of and I get this phone call from a Los Angeles number. I'm like, okay, it's probably his agent or whatever giving me an update. And it's like, hello, is this Sean? I'm like speaking and he's like, this is Nick Erman. And he proceeds to tell me that he's in the clown car out in the parking lot. So I step out of the doors to the parking lot from, uh, the equivalent to Eisenhower's, the Singletary Center. And so just picture Eisenhower for, for purposes of like placing yourself in the story, imagine going out to like a back parking lot behind Eisenhower and there's this black Camaro and apparently that was his rental car.
Sean 00:31:38 He was like, you know, I got this clown car. And and so we, we help him get his stuff out, he brings his bag and his guitar case and stuff in and then lot of times these folks would just kind of hang out in their dressing room. They might have an assistant or their buddy or you know, their little entourage of people and he's just strolling around the hallway in the back like taking in all of the artwork and the photos of people who'd played there over the years. And then he does this set and it was really funny and also very not safe for work, definitely not G-rated. And he comes back stage, I'm standing right off to the side of the stage with the, the one of the sound people and he kind of goes like, ah, blank it and goes back on stage.
Sean 00:32:18 I'm not sure I try to keep this G-rated so I'm censoring myself here as we record. But he goes back on stage and if you're a parked and rec fan, I wish I had gotten my phone out and recorded this. I was so awestruck in the moment. But he does this like slow Jaz version of 5,000 Candles in the Wind, which if you're a parts and rec fan, you know is the song that they play in honor of little Sebastian at at the Ponty uh festival that they do. And the whole audience was just like eating this up, right? And then he, we do the meet and greet with all the student volunteers who helped, you know, take tickets and market the event. You know, you had to like earn your spot in that meet and greet. We'd have like 15 spots or whatever and he took pictures with everybody, signed everything you could, you know, possibly give him.
Sean 00:32:55 He took some goofy pictures, let me like with us like he was just the nicest guy. Uh, so that was just a really interesting experience working with some, some talent in that way. And just in terms of like sometimes you can be creative, the marketing or the talent agency says here's your photo and they're very tight on what you can and can't do with the marketing materials. And our student graphic designer kudos to this student, he was like how do I, like there's not a lot of exciting things I can do. And Jaz, I don't know if you can see this looking at it, but what he did to try and make ours look just a little bit more unique than other people who might have been bringing him to their campus or their, their theater or whatever, he put a wood grain overlay over the whole poster for the event.
Jaz 00:33:32 Oh my gosh,
Sean 00:33:33 Nick Offerman is a woodworker and obviously that's integrated into his character on parts and rec, but like that's the thing he does in real life. Like he's actually like a carpenter, a woodworker and like they love that cuz it was like just the littlest detail. So you know, there's ways to be creative even when you're in like that kind of boxed in and then they're like, you know, with like legalese and tight restrictions from a talent agent and stuff. So
Jaz 00:33:55 That was and contrast and logistics. Yes. Yes. And it also probably keeps you very well engaged too. It's hard to have a job where you feel like you are in a box, but everything that you've talked about Sean, you are able to expand. You're taking the opportunities, you're being proactive. And that is a perfect segue into something that again everyone listening has has been sitting in on the edge of their seats. <laugh> podcasting. Yes. How on earth did you go from major events, constituent relations, now you're a podcaster.
Sean 00:34:28 Yeah, so in going back to UK for just a second, we had so many events there that you know, you'd have to just, you know, working with the stu like one day you, you're I've had, I had students come to me with things that I had to report as like a Title IX and, and Cleary reporter and, and other days you're celebrating the student who got into grad school and you're also doing a logistics meeting for the Nick Offerman or you're talking to the lights people or you're navigating being able to use the parking lot for Carnival, right? And so you're just constantly doing different things. So the problem solving and the relational pieces, I, I really take a lot of what I did in that job just to working with once you graduated here. And so it's interesting that you asked about the podcast because that really grew out of that mentality.
Sean 00:35:09 I really look at this as like how do we get our alumni engaged with the college? I do just about everything I funnel through a lens of how can alumni support current scholars for my counterparts. In a lot of the big colleges here at University Parks Meal as a great example, they do some really cool professional development cuz they have great faculty right in their college and here in Schreyer we don't have faculty, we partner with us. So I'm a one man show in terms of the alumni stuff. In terms of full-time staff, I have great volunteers and I love them dearly and so I'd rather deploy them to help our current students And one of the ways we do that is through mentorship programs. Uh, one of the big ones is mentoring with honors that's been referenced several times in different episodes and we also do some in-person like career days and one of those is a program called Connect and we invite about 30 ish alumni back to campus every spring for this little mini career day.
Sean 00:36:01 And it's typically at the end of March so you might know where this is going. It was one of the very first things we had to cancel March, 2020 because of covid And in those early days when just, oh everything's canceled going online and we're like ah, this is next week and we just learned how to open Zoom so we're just gonna cancel this. So once we got our bearings, as many people did, we started doing these career chats. We called them Connect chats and we did them on Zoom and we did one every other week. We did a couple test ones during the semester and then we went throughout the summer we had marketing panels and law school panels and different stuff like we would have at Connect and the students for the most part seem to enjoy them but they started petering out and I'm like the ones who are participating are getting a lot out of it it seems and the alumni are enjoying it.
Sean 00:36:43 So it's great for us in our office and our mission and yes we are the fundraising office so clearly we, that's a component for us too. We do want that. That's where the scholarships and the travel grants and the different things I've mentioned come from is primarily from alumni donors and and parent donors and that sort of thing. And I was like, there's gotta be a better way to do this. And I started doing some just cursory research and I was like, this feels like it would be better served as a podcast. We could do a little bit deeper dive and we wouldn't let all of this great advice that the alumni are sharing just evaporate into the ether. You'd have maybe eight, 12 students on a good day on one of these. And a little selfishly, you know, we would do these at seven o'clock at night.
Sean 00:37:21 Basically every interview I've recorded has been during the day. I've done two after five o'clock out of the close to 50. So it, it definitely works better for the alumni schedule too to be able to fit in. So I did some research and I was like, okay I think I, I can put this together. So I talked to my boss and I was like, hey what if we did this as a podcast? And he is like cool, write it up, like gimme a proposal for it. And that's what I did. I wrote a couple page proposal and I wrote out several listener personas. I think there was about five or six, I don't have it up in front of me, I should have opened it. But essentially there was like Jane's student and John Parent and different things like that and like Jack Young alum and and different people like that.
Sean 00:38:00 And I wrote a little paragraph explaining like who this person was. So like Jane's student you know is a sophomore and she's trying to figure out what she wants to do and John parent, his child is applying to college and he's trying to understand what makes Schreyer special compared to Yale or Michigan or whatever. So I wrote all these out and kind of had a plan of like the marketing cadence and release and how how do you record these and what technology and and different things. And so really the business case, the microphones and, and that part is everyone wants to start there but that's honestly the easy part. There's some good microphones, they're not expensive. If you have an iPhone or a Galaxy, you can start a podcast. Really the question is do you have a good business case for how and why people should actually listen to it Really is really important question is, and so I wrote this up, my boss was like cool.
Sean 00:38:45 And so I drafted a couple of our alumni board volunteers and I said hey do you wanna be one of my Guinea pigs for this? And we did a couple demos, gave the best one of those demos to the dean and those are actually the first three episodes by the way, after we did some more editing and stuff we actually did a demo demo and that one got deleted cuz it's awful, it was so bad. So that one went away then you know got approval from the dean and kind of got going and have tried to grow my still doing it throughout the, the journey here with it.
Jaz 00:39:14 Was following the gong always the original title or did you go through several iterations and people voted? How did that happen?
Sean 00:39:21 That is a really good question. I came up with that and the reason for it is, so I am a first generation Penn Stater. I bleed blue and white and you know it was funny at U N C G and at Kentucky people always knew me as that Penn State person. Like I was the only one and different conferences, different EM sports of emphasis and you know, if it wasn't apparently obvious the following the gong, if you see the abbreviations on the, on the episode, it's F T G like for the glory from the alma mater. So that was very intentional cuz I didn't want just alumni career conversations or connect chats or something boring like that. I was like I need a name that stands out so that when you tell somebody to search it, it was SEO really. Um, and Penn State Pride blended now that I think about it.
Jaz 00:40:06 Search engine optimization. Correct? Yes.
Sean 00:40:08 Yes. Okay. I wanted, if you go on Spotify or Apple Podcasts or wherever you're listening to this and you start typing this in, I want it to be the first thing that comes up. Like I need it to be very unique. And it's so funny cuz I get all these emails now that are like, grow your podcast, extend your reach. And I'm like I don't wanna do that. I have a very specific audience I am doing this for and I don't need 10,000 downloads. I need, you know, our students to listen to it. I want their parents to listen to it. I want our young alumni to listen to it. That's who it's for. I don't need thousands and millions of listens. So I was like delete those cuz I'm like I'm not gonna, I don't need that. You're not gonna use it. I have a, I have a core audience of who this is built for and uh, I've changed hosting platforms so the analytics are like wonky but what I've at least gained from seeing stuff on the original one that had pretty good analytics um, before I've kind of reset twice, is we were averaging like a hundred listens per episode, which in my mind I'd go, if I had a hundred students show up to a speaker in the grandfather clock lounge, that room would be packed and we would be excited about that.
Sean 00:41:10 Like even if you got 15 students to come to an event in the G F C, we would be thrilled about that, right? To hear an alum come in and talk for an hour. But we were able to capture it and I see that they get listens like a year later and so working with our missions team to include it in their presentations that accepted student days and say Hey you just heard our whole thing unless you're from State College or Beon or something, like you probably have at least an hour drive home to wherever you're going. If you're coming you know from University Park and State College. Hey listen to this on the way home, find an alum who looks like you or does the same job that you want to do or something like that and throw this on in the car. You could hear what our presentation is but hear firsthand account of like what it was like actually like to be a scholar who majored in English and now does finance. That's possible. Here
Jaz 00:41:55 You have, what I love about the consistency of your episodes is there are some very specific questions you make sure that all of your interviewees answer and that gets back to your mentorship and your advice. Yeah. What podcasts or podcasters did you listen to that helped inform the way that you do podcasts?
Sean 00:42:14 That is a really good question. So I think there's like three parts to my answer. So during those, during that first year of covid when like you couldn't really do anything, I took my first child on a lot of walks in the stroller when he was very young and I listened to a lot of how I built this um, from npr, a lot of stories of entrepreneurs talking about how they got their business going and that's where a lot of the inspiration came from too. And I was like, this is kind of our version of that. So I took a lot of inspiration from that and I definitely kind of stopped listening after a while cuz a lot of the stories started to be fairly similar and I was like, okay. Part of this too is I know there's probably not a lot of people that are going to listen to every episode, so I'd take great effort to write up descriptions and bullet points on each episode.
Sean 00:42:54 So hopefully if somebody finds one or two, that is very helpful for them because if you're not interested in med school, you're not gonna listen to the one with the physician, right? But you might listen to the one with the consultant. So trying to be very clear on what you can expect from an episode. So the second one is I actually watched a lot of YouTube videos and listened to several podcasts about podcasting and some of that was the strategy writing interview questions, the microphones, the whole nine yards. And so that helped inform a lot of the practical parts of getting this up and running. And then this might be surprising, but I really don't listen to too many podcasts <laugh>. Um, I have two, well I listened to this one twice through doing inter like doing the editing and then the transcription, um, review at the end to make sure that everything is translated right from the, that's the only part that's AI driven I should say is the transcription is AI generated from the audio file.
Sean 00:43:43 But everything else I do entirely like produce, edit, host, especially the editing. So I do listen to two, I listen to the podcast feeds for the ESP nation channels for the Philadelphia Eagles and the Philadelphia Phillies. Those are the two that I listen to. I don't listen to news ones because the world's just been so wild the last couple years. I need it as a distraction while I'm cleaning or driving or whatever. So I listened to those ones, particularly the Phillies ones. I really got into this last spring when my second kid was born, kind of lined up at the start of baseball season and that turned out pretty well considering they went on to win the pennant. Uh, that was good timing after having put up with a horrible team for a decade prior to that. Justin, Sam,
Jaz 00:44:25 I can see if, uh, yeah, Phillys holding
Sean 00:44:26 My Philly
Jaz 00:44:27 Cup here. Oh my gosh,
Sean 00:44:28 My Phillys cup here. So those are the two that I listen to and I enjoy cuz some of them are solo, some of them are like two people, sometimes they have guests, sometimes it's like a three person thing that they do every week. The Phillies one's great cuz they have like three shows within the feed. There's like, they're twice a week one and they had like the more of the like not safe for work one where there's more cursing and and things. And then there's a third one that is a history one where this could only be done for like the Phillies and maybe like two or three other sports franchises. But they have one called the Dirty Inning where they literally, most of them are, uh, what they, how do they describe it? Like the dumbest, funniest or otherwise weirdest innings in Phillies history.
Sean 00:45:03 Most of them, usually they're on the wrong end of it. Occasionally they'll do it where they did that to another team, but you know, oh they gave up 18 runs in a inning or something to that effect. And they tell stories and relate. What was it like in Philadelphia in 1906? Now that's what I love about baseball is that, you know, obviously the rule changes have been wild this year, but generally like more so than most other sports, you could bring somebody back from like 1890 and they mostly recognize it still. So that's where I draw a lot of inspiration from those three pieces. So, uh, the npr, the Phillies one, particularly in the Eagles one a little bit, and then the ones on how to actually podcast.
Jaz 00:45:37 Well what's amazing is we've talked about your day job that you get paid for. We've talked about your podcast, which is how you engage. How on earth do you have time for, you said you have two kids, one that was just born the spring family hobbies. How do you establish a work-life balance?
Sean 00:45:53 So that's a really interesting question, Jaz, and I definitely asked that periodically with some of our guests. And I actually saw a phrase on LinkedIn that I like and I hope as the future of work, especially for knowledge workers or white collar, however you want to describe what we do. And a lot of the people that I talk to, cuz obviously this can't apply to some people, if you have a job that truly requires in person, like if you're an E M T, a factory worker, a frontline service member in the military or frontline employee at a restaurant or hotel. So I'm gonna couch this answer with this is applied to like desk jobs like mine. But I love this idea I saw of work life integration and I'd love to see that a little bit more cuz like applying a nine to five, which, how did Dolly get away with nine to five?
Sean 00:46:35 Cuz it is eight to five, let's be real. But in eight to five job Monday to Friday, our world's a little bit more complex. And I get it for like, if you're running a restaurant or you're running a hotel or other businesses like that, you need shifts. I get it. But for a white collar desk job, that doesn't fit what we do anymore. Not with the technological and communications tools that we have. So I love this idea more of work life integration. So I'll stop evangelizing on that <laugh>. But I guess that's honestly something I've struggled with. I feel like I have a great relationship with my, with my wife. I have, I hope a pretty good relationship with my children and I am pretty darn good at my job. I've been here for over five years. I feel like Im really good at this.
Sean 00:47:15 I've built really good relationships with our alumni and with other people at Penn State. I don't have a lot of free time. I am wrapping up, uh, this summer my second degree I mentioned I'm getting my MBA through World Campus and Smeal. I obviously, I have a student affairs degree that I mentioned from U N C G and between two kids and uh, was three now two dogs. One unfortunately passed away this winter. I don't have a lot of free time, so honestly something I struggle with and, you know, uh, a piece of advice to maybe preempt a question that you might have that I typically ask is maintain your connections. I've honestly, I've lost relation despite the tools of like texting and Facebook and Snapchat and all the great ways to keep in touch with people. I've honestly, it's boiled down to like a very small group and those memes of like adult friendships are like, oh, we should get together and saying that back and forth with each other until you die. Those feel very real and very pertinent to me. So I think if you can maintain your relationships with people coming out of college and you know, your high school friends and your college friends and club members and stuff, do that. Cause I've done a really poor job of that.
Jaz 00:48:15 That's probably very comforting to a lot of people though, because like you were saying earlier, I mean you moved to a different state then you came back and in, in this day probably a lot of your scholars are even international and not necessarily keeping up maybe, you know, they don't feel so unusual maybe in that regard. Yep. But absolutely being able to find time for your family, for your friends. I imagine around the holidays you might have a little bit more free time. Do you have any holiday traditions?
Sean 00:48:45 I do and I do wanna just kind of wrap up that last point. I do take because I've struggled with that personally, but I see because I've moved around states and I know that's true for a lot of other people that move for careers, that drives a lot of my philosophy and how I do our alumni engagement. And where I'm trying to take our alumni engagement in the college is to build that community and, and make it an accessible way so it's inclusive and also something you can take with you wherever you live. Whether that's New York or Amsterdam or State College or Los Angeles or anywhere in between. I, I've really tried to channel that, I guess oversight on my part into my work so that other people can, you know, learn from my mistake. But you asked about the holidays and I think that stems from a, a question I filled out my own questionnaire and if you were wondering if you're somebody who does listen to this regularly, I did fill out my own questionnaire and I was like, hmm, maybe I need to revise this a little bit <laugh>.
Sean 00:49:33 But if you're familiar with the Christmas classic, and I know not everybody celebrates Christmas, but if you're familiar with the Christmas classic national Lampoon's Christmas vacation, Clark Griswold is obviously not the best dad in the world or the best husband, but there's obviously the first part of the movie is all about what he does it exterior illumination. And that is something that I really enjoy being a homeowner is its own challenge. Uh, obviously super privileged and fortunate to be able to, you know, own a home. Or I should say the bank owns a home and I pay a mortgage on it for being real technical about that, but super privileged. But one of the, and there's a lot of challenges with lawn mowing and keeping up. You know, my house was built in the fifties, so like a lot of stuff is old and the previous owners did some weird things and so that takes up a lot of your time. But around the holidays, the first, there's inevitably like a nice warm day. Sometime in early November we take down the Halloween decorations and do up the house and, uh, nowhere near what Clark Griswold's house looks like, but we put up a lot of lights all through the yard. This past year I turned tomato planters, like, do you know those spiral things?
Jaz 00:50:36 Oh, of course. And they go up a,
Sean 00:50:38 Yep. So I turn those into like extra little Christmas trees where I have lights around those. We do the little inflatables, the whole thing. And my goal once I'm done my MBA is to have the time I wanna build, like my vision is to build a little manger set for Christmas out there that also doubles as like a place where I can put some solar panels to like run all instead make it a little bit greener. But I absolutely love decorating for Christmas, definitely one of the highlights of the year for me. And then in January, as soon as there's a warm day, we, you know, we take everything down. It's probably one of the few things in my house that's truly organized well is all of our Halloween and Christmas stuff. What I love about setting that up is it has a lot of bright cuz like, like literally the darkest time of the year, the days are the shortest college football season is ending.
Sean 00:51:16 If you read my bio in the Shrag website, it's my favorite time of the year cuz it's hot in the beginning and cold. You get a little bit of every season during college football season and by the time it's time to take the Christmas lights down, the days are getting long again. So, you know, it's still dark out early, but they're getting just ever so much brighter during like a little bit later every day and you can spend more time outside. That's something I learned during Covid was like, I definitely find peace just being outside on a nice day, really just the simple things. But decorating for Christmas is the best, especially once you have kids. If you do choose to have kids along or you know, along the way, whether you have your own or adopt or or whatever you do. If you have, that adds like a whole other layer of trying to like be the parent at Christmas. And a lot of those, those Christmas movies become so much more relatable once you, once you have kids and maybe, maybe you're a pet parent too, so you know, you spoil spoil the doggos at at Christmas too. And if you don't have kids, there's still great ways to enjoy the holidays too. So don't wanna say that's ever something you should or shouldn't do. That's a decision for you and, and a partner to make. Well,
Jaz 00:52:13 If you need to build a manger or if you need your home repairs, I think Nick might volunteer if he's a carpenter, so keep his, uh, keep his number on speed dial.
Sean 00:52:23 We didn't bring that fully around. I love that was well digested.
Jaz 00:52:26 Thank you. So, uh, we're gonna just go to a couple more questions that you ask your guests and yes, our audience, I do have those questions and these are ones that are, they're a little bit more serious in some ways because we really wanna make sure, and this is what I've, I've learned from Sean and these podcasts, like really wanna make sure that you feel like you're being successful and that you're learning. So Sean, moving to your first question, what do you feel has been your greatest success to date?
Sean 00:52:54 Somebody else used this as an answer. I definitely feel like I chose the right partner. I know that's not, like not everybody, that's what drives them and it wasn't what drove me, but finding a partner that supports you and you know, there's two peop there's two types of people you're around the most, your partner and your work team you have to do. You have to make good choices on both of those fronts. And I have a great team here at Schreyer and I have a great partner at home and you know, we have two kids and two dogs, like I said. And it life is wild and trying to navigate tho particularly during a global pandemic and everything else that's been happening in the last couple years, if you don't have the right person to navigate with that. So I think that was something that went really well. And the team here in Trier is great too. So you're around your work people almost sometimes more than your family. I definitely, I know there's people who are like, you know, like to say like they're company's a family. Like no, they're not <laugh>. Like this is not Olive Garden. Like, you know, they're not your family, but you do need to be a good team. I think if you find a good team at work, find a good team at home, you can get through a lot of other things.
Jaz 00:53:53 And you mentioned earlier that Schreyer for you was a community and you're building a community. So it sounds like that's part of this, you're very people-centric. You talk about relationship building and that is really success. That is an absolute definition of success. The other question that you ask, which for me might be the most interesting one that you ask your interviewees is what has been your biggest transformational moment in your life? That
Sean 00:54:18 Is a really good question. You know, it's funny, I asked this and I didn't even think of an answer ahead of time. Just lots of little, there's a lot of little what ifs. Like I'm very happy with the path that these ultimately led down, but there are those lingering questions of like, had I tried harder at this? Like I said, I kind of really phoned in my college search. I applied for the, or I was going to apply for the I U G and it was like a whole ended up not doing that in, in undergrad. And that's the integrated undergrad grad program that, um, our scholars can do. I didn't really do a good job finding internships in college and kind of let the world drive me instead of driving my own journey. I think early on and ultimately, like I'm glad I landed at Kentucky and, and met Elizabeth and stuff, but I'm curious on like, you know, nobody goes to college to work in student affairs or, or to work in alumni engagement.
Sean 00:55:07 It's kind of something you find. So I don't know. I I, it's funny sometimes I ask like, how did I get into Schreyer because like the, the people that I interact with, whether current students or alumni, I'm like, these people are so much more amazing. Like how sometimes there is a little bit of imposter syndrome despite having graduated and earned my medal. I'm like, how do I fit in with this group? Oh my god, these people are amazing. And I read about like, oh no surprise, they're sch shyer. Like when you see a Penn State article about somebody and it's like, not surprising, they're, they're a scholar. So that definitely is a challenge at times. So just lots of little things. I had a whole thing in one of my student organizations I was in my last year about, there was four of us trying for two spots to dance and th and that was a hard thing to deal with not being picked. And ultimately I was able to leverage that the following year, counseling a student who also didn't get picked. And I was like, okay. So I was able to relate my story and, and some of those failings. So things happen for a reason. Sometimes it just takes years to find out what that reason was.
Jaz 00:55:59 And we've talked before that the richest stories are not the ones where people immediately get the thing that they want and get the next thing that they want. And it's the fact that you've struggled, you're more relatable to your students, you're more relatable to your mentees and that makes you the well-rounded person that you are, Sean. And that's the reason you're so interesting to your audience.
Sean 00:56:19 I hope so. I try not to interject too much, but I do add like, you know, I'm gonna interject here and there in our conversations, but like you're a fantasy author I guess to use, you know, an example, I think we had talked about if the Fellowship of the Ring, if the other eight members had actually listened to Gandolph and just flew cuz he literally told them what to do. He says, fly you fools. He gave them the roadmap and they just didn't listen. So one, listening skills are important, but two, if they had actually like listened to that, that would've been a pretty boring book. Like none of the adventures that they've, they had just like listened. They could have stepped forward. Like technically it's like six books is the way they're divided up. Like you could have skipped from like book one or two when that happens to like book six. So yeah, you have to have some like things go wrong in order to actually have an interesting story.
Jaz 00:57:00 And even with podcasts, you were saying that it was iterative, you listened to your first one, you revised it, and now you're in a great place. But who knows what you're gonna do in the future? Uh, which brings me to a great question. What are you going to do in 2023?
Sean 00:57:13 That is a great question. So the last few years have been crazy. It was like, okay, move to state college and start a new job and get married and then, oh, we're pregnant. Oh, have the baby. Oh, global pandemic. Oh, figuring out, coming back to campus from the Global pandemic. Oh, have a kid. So 2023, I'm hoping, praying is just like a normal year. Like I don't want anything exciting, I just want to like do my job and do it well and support the vision of, you know, president be De Puty and Dean Mather and, and support our students. Like that's really all I want. And just like to go home, have a, you know, a happy family. I'm very fortunate that, you know, just be able to do that. Wouldn't mind if you know the Eagles in the Phillies ran it back and actually pulled it off this time. How does one city lose three championships in like three months? Come on man. Like one of y'all gotta pull it off. Just saying they
Jaz 00:58:00 Still celebrate. They celebrate
Sean 00:58:02 Regardless. Hey, we did win the Rose Bowl. We did win the Rose Bowl here at Penn State. So thank you Coach Franklin for, for, for that. That was a nice way to end winter break this past year. So
Jaz 00:58:10 You gave a shout out right now to Coach Franklin. Are there any other people, professors, colleagues, friends that you wanna give a shout out to?
Sean 00:58:18 Oh, absolutely. It's funny, I always ask this one first. Uh, my wife Elizabeth and, and our kids definitely, she was a sounding board through this and particularly during the work from home period. And in figuring all this out, my boss, Sean Miller here in the honors college, uh, supported this from like literally the brainstorm idea along the way and has helped find some guests. So, and our whole team here in uh, technically our office is development alumni relations, but we call ourselves the dev squad. That was our teams group when Covid happened and was kind of stuck and really the whole honors college staff, just really great people from Dean Mather all the way through the org chart, particularly Lisa Kay who was here for a long time and was a great mentor to me and worked with our alumni board, Donna Meyer, who actually started the Alumni Society when she was in my role before moving to working with students.
Sean 00:59:01 And uh, some other former colleagues who've been in Trier over the years. But great crew here. A lot of great colleagues who are in my counterparts across campus, the other dors as as they call them. So the hort, I really, really appreciate all them. My boss's boss, Tina Hennessy who's the AVP in uh, development that we report through, she's a scholar alumni, you can listen to her story on episode. I think it's 13 or 14 somewhere early and some really great people there. Going back to undergrad, do you have a huge shout out to Dr. Sandy Feinstein at Berks? Uh, she's the honors coordinator there. She helped me refine my application and my essay and everything to get into the honors college in the first place. After doing the honors program there, a lot of the other great staff that I interacted with, Bertz, uh, alti and uh, Sandra Hel who I mentioned earlier and then also I think this is the last one, uh, from undergrad Mary Edington.
Sean 00:59:51 She's currently the senior director of the hub. She was the advisor for U P A back in the day. She's a lovely human being as well as these other folks. So a lot of good people here in Schreyer. A lot of good people at you park and across the commonwealth there's great staff at all of the campuses. So just a shout out to all of them. Finally, our colleagues over at the Alumni Association as well, like Paul Clifford and Matt Eichelberger and others that we work with here in Schreyer to coordinate alumni stuff kind of on the big level for the university and in our little micro world here in Schreyer. So I'm sure I left out some people if I did. Sorry, <laugh>. <laugh>. No, I appreciate you. So yeah, but
Jaz 01:00:24 The point is it really takes a village. Yes. Yes. It it really takes a village. How can scholars reach you if they wanna connect with you? Sean,
Sean 01:00:32 The obvious one's. LinkedIn. You can find me on there. I think I'm the only one with my name or at least I'm probably the only one with Penn State in my bio on there. So you can find me there if you're listening to this and I still work here in the honors college. I built this to be as evergreen as possible. I know some podcasts are like worthless the next day if it's like current events oriented. So I tried to build this to be like long lasting. But you can go to shc.psu.edu/appointments and you can book time with me if you would like. Uh, my email's also on the website too so you can find
Jaz 01:00:59 It there. Do you spell out appointments, Sean? Yep. S hc.psu.edu/appointments. Yep,
Sean 01:01:06 That's it. And you can also book time with plenty of other staff here in the honors college, including Dean Mather during his office hours, Austin for financial aid and plenty of other faults depending on what questions or concerns you might have.
Jaz 01:01:16 Great. And now Sean, the hardest question that you ask. Everyone knows if they've listened to this, if you were a flavor of Burkey Creamery ice cream, which would you be? And because you've asked this many times, you are not allowed to look at the menu. It has to be from memory.
Sean 01:01:31 Uh, well I did research this. I did think ahead on this one. A lot of the other ones I did not. I did pull up the menu this morning and looked at their website and I was like, this is so hard because like my, I really wanted to go bittersweet Mint, it's one of my favorites or chocolate chip cookie dough. It's one of my favorites. And we've had a lot of people who've given the same couple of flavors over, I really need to catalog them. But my answer for you Jaz is one that I don't see there terribly often. It's one of the, uh, periodic ones there. It is Chocolate Pretzel Crunch and I know I'm the first person to have picked that one. And I have two reasons for picking this one. The first is it's mostly sweet. I think I'm genuinely a nice person.
Sean 01:02:08 But you got those pretzels in there that's a little bit of crunch, a little bit of saltiness <laugh>. So I think that's a pretty good representation of me. And also my freshman year at Penn State Burkes, they temporarily renamed this flavor to Burke's Bits, oh my gosh. And served it at the campus's 50th anniversary celebrations. And I always have that connected to that very formative year and that experience at that campus with this flavor. Um, and I attribute a lot of where I am in life and things that have gone well to both Penn State Burkes and to the Schreyer Honors College. And so I know a lot of people have picked scholarship. It's a fine flavor, it's not my favorite. So I'm going to go with one that nobody's picked yet and that is Chocolate Pretzel Crunch.
Jaz 01:02:46 Well, Sean, in the next 50 episodes I am going to challenge the interviewees somebody to pick that exact same ice cream so you have a, uh, an accomplice <laugh>. So wrapping up, uh, thank you to the listeners for participating in this really insightful interview. Next week Sean will be returned to you as your amazing host. We said this before, but if this is your first time listening, I really would recommend skimming through previous following the Gong Podcasts. Again, you can find them on the schreyer website or on any major podcast app or platform. They're fun, they're informative, they're really inspirational, particularly if you're just getting into schreyer and you're trying to figure things out. I would also say please do send Sean your feedback on these podcasts. You can ask him questions. Sean, I'm offering you up for questions cuz I know you said you can connect one-on-one and maybe you have a topic that you're interested in hearing about. So let Sean know. Um, Sean, it's been a pleasure. I'm looking forward to your book about mentorship, <laugh> and perhaps the, um, the tally of what ice ice cream flavors are most popular with your alumni. And I will give you the final words to close out.
Sean 01:03:53 Thank you. Yeah, if you, just to wrap up your point there, Jaz, about user feedback, that is just such a integral part of doing anything. I hope that my efforts with this to illuminate a diverse array of stories, whether that's gender identity, racial identity or the unique piece with Schreyer is our college and campus diversity. We have scholars from liberal arts, from sme, from Abington and everything in between. And I know I haven't gotten quite everyone represented as of the time of recording, but I do try to make sure that we're offering different experiences with younger alumni who are maybe just out of college and just took that LSAT or that MCAT two faults who've been in their careers for 35 years and have a whole plethora of, of things that they've seen faults who come from different backgrounds and out of state, in state, they're first generation, first generation, second generation American.
Sean 01:04:49 And really trying to just provide those different perspectives. And then also just the myriad of different industries. Some people, they come to Penn State, they major in food science, they go be a food scientist like Natalie Keller, episode 17, our alumni board president. But a lot of people just mix and match stuff and I think those stories are really cool and I encourage you to listen to it. And if there's something that you wanna hear, like a unique panel, I know I did one with all the th directors or several th directors I should say. I'm all up for new ideas to keep this fresh. So please, if you have those suggestions, let me know. If you're an alum who's like, oh, I really want to be on this, I have a cool story, let me know. I'd love to talk with you. Look forward to that feedback if you have it. I think that helps this grow, it helps all of our alumni engagement grow so we can better support our current students, which is the whole point of this Jaz. Thank you so much for, for hosting me and actually as the host, if you have a final thing you'd like to say, I'll let you close out cuz they're gonna hear me in the, uh, prerecorded post gone ringing thing that you're about to hear anyway, so I'll let you have the last word.
Jaz 01:05:44 Thank you, Sean. Just this has been such a pleasure and I'm looking forward to in a few months, I would love to have someone else interview you and catch up on what you're doing. So thank you to the audience. Have a great night. We'll talk to you soon.
Thank you Scholars for listening and learning with us today. We hope you will take something with you that will contribute to how you shape the world. This show proudly supports the Schreyer Honors College Emergency Fund, benefiting Scholars experiencing unexpected financial hardship. You can make a difference at raise.psu.edu/schreyer. Please be sure to hit the relevant subscribe, like, or follow button on whichever platform you are engaging with us on today. You can follow the College on Instagram and LinkedIn to stay up to date on news, events, and deadlines. If you have questions about the show or are a Scholar Alum who'd like to join us as a guest here on Following the Gong, please connect with me at [email protected]
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