Education: M.A. economics, 2010; B.A., political science, journalism, 2006
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Work: government relations Specialist, Ridge Policy Group, Washington
Experience and activities: executive board, Boys Scouts of America: Minsi Trails Council; board, Jacob’s Church; member of Penn State Alumni Association
Please describe your motivations for running for the Board of Trustees.
We need change with proven direction. As Penn State enters a new era, I want to afford the university that direction with greater leadership, communication, transparency, and accountability, and return tangible resources to better serve the community. I recognize my experience in the government affairs, higher education, and economic development arenas will complement current board strengths and provide it a tested leader, a fresh perspective and a valuable resource.
I want to transition the conversation from what has happened to Penn State to what is happening at Penn State: we have a world-class medical center, we’re a leader in research, we have a global presence, and own the best alumni constituency in the nation. Penn State represents opportunity, and I want to remind people—particularly beyond the campus borders—of the greatness happening here.
Given my experience in Pennsylvania and Washington, I see an opportunity to introduce — and reintroduce — Penn State to valuable constituencies, organizations and associations to significantly restore the university’s standing. I have first-hand experience in higher education budget negotiations, institutional advancement and program development, and have advocated for the protection and increase of state and other public funding. I have a direct line of communication to many of the key actors deciding the future of higher education funding, and will be able to work from multiple angles to pursue greater support for Penn State. I can identity and bridge the university to national and international resources, enhancing the programming and student experience at University Park.
What are the most important challenges ahead for Penn State, and if elected, how would you address them?
So much of the university community wants leadership reform, but ideas change from one group of stakeholders to another, and the community at large is without a unified vision for reform — or a secure, transparent medium to foster the development of one. In partnership with members throughout the Penn State community I would establish and facilitate this forum for dialogue. It needs to extend beyond Facebook pages and opinionated email blasts, and cannot be accomplished by the board alone: We need to create a formal space for members to contribute to and monitor the conversation regarding reform to best find it a reality.
Second, I will start discussions on and the study of what is necessary to maintain an affordable tuition rate for five, 10 and 15 years into the future. This is imperative, as college budgets are constantly and urgently forced to respond to present conditions.
One of Penn State’s chief advantages is its affordability: we need to maintain that advantage, and by researching the cost of stable tuition today we can be better prepared to accommodate the students of tomorrow.
As a university we must better recognize global interdependence and what that means for both student opportunities and the Penn State brand. I will apply my working relationships in the international arena to foster a better awareness of and connection to global opportunities. This effort would hope to bring new programming and educational resources, stronger marketability abroad, and introductions to initiatives to wholly engage the university.
If elected, what position would you support on the topic of Penn State board of trustees reform?
Penn State is in a rebuilding phase, and any reform needs to reflect that. Generally, it would be best for the university to refresh its leadership helm with new energy, and both senior and new trustees must establish a working relationship to address accessibility. We need leadership that will be engaged throughout the community and participate with new student programs, expanding Penn State’s international appeal, raising career placement rankings, and highlighting its role as a premier medical and research institution: stronger communication with the community itself is another significant reform. We need to restore Penn State’s image in Pennsylvania and nationally.
We cannot make progress without some degree of change, because the conversation has to move beyond the scandal. We are holding ourselves and our students back if it doesn’t.
A key reform, the board of trustees must increase its communication to the president to support the relationship, and members are ultimately responsible for their individual effort in reaching out to and establishing a relationship with university leadership. The board should be proactive in monitoring and reviewing the president’s performance. Members also must be unafraid to hold the president accountable or raise concerns; with constant dialogue between the two, such instances will be less contentious and instead serve as constructive criticism. Board members, especially those appointed by alumni, must be the strongest advocates for alumni issues and concerns to the president. This means providing an accessible means of communication for alumni and availability to respond to community members’ questions.
If elected, what position would you support about Joe Paterno?
First and foremost, I am “Pro-Joe.” Joe Paterno is among the most committed individuals higher education has known, and his service to Penn State is admirable. He is a legend, has driven the demand for academic excellence in athletics, and demonstrated class and selflessness even during the worst moments. The coach is an inspirational figure and deserved a better ending.
While many, myself included, want to rush to his defense, I feel Coach Paterno would politely deflect the attention and instead point to the needs of the students; his integrity and character wouldn’t want to see the community torn over his image. We can best honor his legacy in the immediate future by continuing his pursuit of student achievement on and off the field.
Penn State will need to restore the coach’s profile and once again fully recognize his accomplishments and commitment to the university. But we know that timeline doesn’t begin until the university is fully restored, and in the Paterno vein, we ensure that student focus is paramount.
Is there anything else you want voters to know about you and your candidacy?
My vision for the university reaches for a strategic, collaborative effort to move Penn State forward. Wanting change, I recognize that any change must be reasoned and supported by experience and direction to best serve our reputation.
Working in government affairs, my experience and relationships would benefit one of the board’s most-critical functions: to preserve support for the university and increase resources and other opportunities.
I know the budget-making process well, and can immediately assist this mission in Harrisburg and Washington. My roles present a significant, strategic advantage to develop connections with premier national and international organizations and return resources.