Five EMS students are participating in the Presidential Leadership Academy (PLA) this year. Ask the new PLA recruits, sophomores Marla Korpar and Kirsten Guelly, what they’ve learned in the highly selective program taught by President Spanier and be ready for an earful. “I have only been enrolled in PLA for a few months, and I have gained a wealth of knowledge. Our critical thinking seminar held once a week with Graham Spanier prompts me to think about current issues that I probably wouldn’t consider,” commented Marla, an Environmental System Engineering major. Marla also has leadership roles in the College’s THON committee, Energy and Running Clubs.
Kristen Guelly, Energy Business and Finance, is also new to the Academy. She is a member of the Penn State Women’s Swim team and serves on the Morgan Center Student Athlete Advisory Board. This fall in PLA, she participated in talks on corporate responsibility, piracy of intellectual property, national security, and the grey areas of complex issues. She’s also made an important discovery about leadership: “A leader doesn’t work alone. He or she must be able to efficiently allocate duties to others to get the job done.”
Last year, the inaugural PLA class included three EMS students: Daniel Conner, Energy Engineering and Energy Business and Finance; Katrina Kumpf, Materials Science and Engineering; and Thomas Rauch, Energy Business and Finance. These three juniors are quick to point out that the field trips they take and the people they meet are the best parts of PLA. They’ve gone to New York City, Washington, D.C., Gettysburg, and Pittsburgh. They’ll be going to New Orleans and Pittsburgh this spring.
They’ve meet leaders in business, banking, national security and additional industries. “In New York we had breakfast on the 30th floor of 1 Wall Street in the Bank of New York Mellon Building, and we met with financial leaders responsible for the response to the recent recession,” said Daniel. Meeting and greeting top executives has helped him develop “some of the intricacies of professional social interactions, such as the art of small talk!”
But it isn’t just about meeting people outside of Penn State. “The friendships with fellow students I’ve made through PLA are definitely the most enjoyable aspect of this program,” said Katrina.
In agreement with this sentiment is Thomas. However, he’s also already thinking about how to tweak the PLA experience and make it even better. “PLA is very young and it has a lot to offer, but it’s up to all of us to make sure it produces relevant and useful results. I guess the proof will be what PLA members do with the experience.” Given this crop of talented, poised and intellectually curious students, the harvest seems promising.