Smeal Students Learn Leadership and Management Skills Through THON
The countless hours of hard work and fundraising that go into each year’s Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon weekend are "for the kids," but THON also provides many students with a variety of professional development opportunities they never expected.
This year, four Penn State Smeal College of Business students hold positions on the Overall Committee for THON: Melanie Sessa, a marketing major also pursuing a major in public relations; Mike Wellner and Matt Scorzafave, both supply chain and information systems majors; and Jen Stipa, who majors in accounting.
Additionally, hundreds of Smeal students contribute to the yearlong process of coordinating the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, a fundraising and awareness campaign aimed at fighting pediatric cancer.
"My motivation for getting involved in THON was never to get a job or build my resume,” said Wellner, the overall rules and regulations chairperson, “but one of the benefits is that we learned about leading and managing an organization and a lot of people."
"My motivation for getting involved in THON was never to get a job or build my resume, but one of the benefits is that we learned about leading and managing an organization and a lot of people."
Wellner oversees a team of 34 captains and facilitated a number of changes this year to make fundraising activities like canning safer for students. This weekend, Wellner’s group will manage event security at the Bryce Jordan Center, where THON participants and families will fill the arena to capacity.
Scorzafave, the overall supply logistics chairperson, says he was able to practice some of the lessons he learned in the classroom related to inventory and distribution. In this role, he also worked to develop and maintain relationships with the companies that provide in-kind donations to supply THON events.
Just as importantly, though, Scorzafave said he learned valuable skills in leadership among fellow Penn Staters, particularly the 21 captains he oversees: "It’s been a huge learning experience to work on garnering respect among peers and learning how to be a good leader and mentor," he said.
The students know that these kinds of leadership and communication skills will benefit them long after THON weekend is over. Sessa, the overall morale chairperson in charge of dancer health, safety, and entertainment, recognizes the value of the lessons she learned in professionalism and promoting THON and its message.
"THON has given me more professional experience than some internships would have," said Sessa, who oversees 21 captains. "It taught me so much about working with people outside my realm and aligning our missions."
Many Smeal student organizations, including all the business fraternities, have participated in fundraising over the past year and will be sending dancers to this weekend’s 46-hour dance marathon at the Bryce Jordan Center.
More than 45 Smeal students will be dancing for Smeal-related organizations, and many more will take the floor for other organizations with which they are involved. The Smeal organizations sending dancers include: the Accounting Society, the Actuarial Science Club, Alpha Kappa Psi, Delta Sigma Pi, the Penn State Finance Society, the Penn State Marketing Association, Phi Beta Lambda, Phi Chi Theta, Phi Gamma Nu, the Professional Management Association, the Sapphire Leadership Program, the Smeal MBA Program, Smeal Student Mentors, and Women in Business.
Additional THON Activities at Smeal
This year, the college’s Women in Business group raised funds through canning and other fundraisers and hosted events such as an all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner at the Abba Java Café and a trivia night. The Penn State Marketing Association is another active student group that raised funds through canning, donations, and events like a sports date auction, variety show, and pasta night.
The Smeal MBA Program held several fundraising events over the past months, including Jar Wars—turning fundraising into a competition among first year students, second year students, and faculty and staff; THON restaurant night at Chili’s; and candy gram sales for Valentine’s Day. The Smeal Executive MBA Program raised money for THON through its THON Night Out silent auction.