A 2017 graduate reflects on his Penn State story, the journey that brought him to Penn State Wilkes-Barre, and the impact he leaves behind
By: Rachel Olszewski
Guest Written by Gregory Strazdus, 2017 Graduate
When I was applying to universities during my senior year of high school, I wasn’t sure where to go but I knew what I wanted to do; I wanted to study information technology and make that my career. I started looking for schools with superb information technology degree programs. Penn State Wilkes-Barre was one of my choices - they had the degree I wanted, but I never thought Penn State was going to be my choice. When I visited our campus, it was love. The admissions staff was friendly and knowledgeable, it was close to home, and the tuition was extremely affordable - I knew this was going to be it.
My first two years of college were an adjustment. I focused on my part-time job and my studies. I was still getting used to the campus and its feel. In my junior year, I got involved with student government. I began my time in SGA as a senator and I immediately began standing up for student’s rights. Many issues on campus impacted me directly, and I took them on, head first, to get solutions and results.
I also got heavily involved with Career Services on the campus. I made great connections with Maureen Ciliberto, our Coordinator of Career Services. Eventually, I was working in the office as a social media & marketing intern. This was a fascinating experience - I started speaking in public more and opening myself up to the possibilities that the campus had to offer.
My senior year was right around the corner, and I was not happy where I was as a student, especially in regards to extra-curricular activities and community involvement. I made the decision to run for President of the Student Government Association.
Running for SGA President was an experience in and of itself, but I knew the message I was spreading would stick with the students and ultimately get me to the position – give us, the students, a voice! We needed a voice with University Park, the Campus Advisory Board, and Campus Administration. I am happy to say, after 1 year in the position, we were able to do just that!
As SGA President, I had many opportunities. While most of these opportunities were open to all students on the campus, I was that student who took them all and ran with them. Sitting on the new Chancellor/Chief Academic Officer search committee, and presenting in front of the Universities Board of Trustees were definitely two highlighting experiences. Visiting University Park monthly for the gathering of The Council of Commonwealth Student Governments, sitting on the Commonwealth Fee Board, and attending the University’s Capital Day was where some of my favorite memories were formed.
I have had people ask me, “What is it that you’ve accomplished as SGA President?” I proudly tell them that my number one achievement was giving the organization a voice again. SGA was plagued with disorganization in the recent past and that left many feeling the student body was being left in the shadows.
I focused on giving the organization a voice though this wasn’t an easy task. It required attending University Park on a monthly basis, going to every campus advisory board meeting, and meeting with campus administration as much as possible. I fostered great relationships with people on our campus; everyone from the Chancellor’s office to various staff members. It was extremely important to have them on our side when it came to growing the organization.
Through the Student Facilities Fee, Student Government also received funding for a campus veteran’s memorial and to evaluate and rebuild the deck on the student commons. Both of these proposals are just a stepping point in constructing new projects on campus.
If someone told me four years ago that I was going to be graduating from The Pennsylvania State University, I would not have believed it. I would have never even imagined that I would be attending Penn State. But after being part of Penn State for the past four years, I must say I now understand it’s magic. We have 24 locations throughout the Commonwealth with over 600,000 alumni. Each campus has its own stories and its own communities, I am lucky enough to say I could not be more proud to be part of the Wilkes-Barre story and community. I have formed friendships throughout my journey that I will take with me forever. The past four years of my life have definitely been the greatest, thus far.
As my Penn State story begins the alumni phase, and I move on in my life and career, I wish the Wilkes-Barre campus all the best in the coming years. It truly has been an honor and a privilege to become a member of this community.