State of State

By Chris Buchignani, April 2, 2014

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending, along with several members of our board, the first annual State of State conference, described as a “dialogue on the present and the future of the University.” The daylong event, held on campus at the HUB, featured a series of speakers – students, faculty, alums and townsfolk – who ea1375133674.pngch gave 10-minute presentations about issues and ideas relevant to the community and its growth. From Emeritus trustee and publishing icon Mimi Barash Coppersmith recounting the history of town/gown relations to NPHC president Abiola Ajibola addressing the definition of “diversity,” the afternoon offered a range of perspectives on a wide variety of topics relevant to “the state of State.”

Of particular note for The Nittany Valley Society was the inclusion of one of our board members – Steve Garguilo – among the day’s featured speakers. Steve mixed some playful satire with a serious message to discuss authenticity as the currency of successful marketing in the new era of “unbuttoned wonder.” We’ll be sure to post the video once it goes up on YouTube. (SPOILER: He takes aim at “Penn State Lives Here.”)

Part of the appeal NVS has for me is our emphasis on the intersection of town and gown, the symbiotic and inextricable relationship that is crucial to defining the unique character of Happy Valley. In attempting to spur critical conversations spanning the gaps that divide College Avenue, I believe State of State can make a unique and valuable contribution to our community. That the event was conceived of and organized completely by Penn State students is all the better. I asked some of our board members who attended to share their own thoughts on the event and its future…

“State of State provided a much needed opportunity for an inter-community dialogue of student, alumni, and community stakeholders to take place in an event that was uniquely one of its kind. Plain and simple it got people talking and fostered a conversation that Penn Staters from all perspectives could participate in.” -Anthony Christina

“Members of our University community are clearly thirsty to have critical conversations about what’s going on at Penn State. Unfortunately, the administration has not made it a priority to create forums for this. Patrick, Suzanne, and the other visionary students who self-selected to create State of State should be very proud of the important dialogue they’ve initiated. Kudos to them for their leadership. Between students, faculty, staff, alumni, residents, and all other members of our community, there is much we can accomplish together when we’re having authentic conversations.” -Steve Garguilo

“It is essential for any community to participate in appropriate forums to discuss the crucial issues facing our lives. The inaugural State of State conference provided a wonderful opportunity to share insight with each other and to tell our story, the Penn State story. I’m looking forward to State of State becoming an annual highlight in our community for years to come.” -Kevin Horne

“State of State was a great way to spark conversation about some of the most pressing topics at Penn State. I hope that the spark generated from the event can materialize into a real change.” -Zach Zimbler