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For the Smeal College of Business’s Jamie Campbell, students become family

November 19, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When Jamie Campbell talks about his role as assistant dean for Diversity Enhancement Programs at the Smeal College of Business, he almost always calls the students he works with “my kids.”

“When parents drop their son or daughter off at college for the first time, they need to know that we’re here. That we care. And so, my door is always open,” Campbell said.

Every year, in addition to coordinating programs and services for students whose gender, race, ethnic, cultural, and/or national background contribute to the diversity of the student body, the Office of Diversity Enhancement Programs provides financial support for more than 100 students, from diversity scholars, a diverse group of high-achieving, goal-oriented undergraduate students, to students with unexpected need.

“Our students face a number of challenges: getting their tuition situated, meeting the entrance to major requirements, keeping lines of communication open,” Campbell said. “So we are always looking for the best way to stay connected and help them work toward graduation.”

Helping students work toward graduation takes many forms: providing personalized academic planning, enriching their academic experience through student organizations, case competitions, and study abroad opportunities; and connecting students with corporate recruiters through events such as the annual START (Striving Toward Awareness and Respect for Tomorrow) conference.

One of the biggest challenges Campbell faces is finding resources to help students who find themselves in crisis. He cites a parent losing a job, a grandparent or other family member with an unexpected health crisis, or a sibling starting college as just a few examples of situations he has seen students face over the years.

Smeal is partnering with the University’s Office of Annual Giving to raise funds to support the Smeal Office of Diversity Enhancement Programs on Giving Tuesday, which will take place on Dec. 1. Former Penn State women’s basketball player Meredith Monroe ’10 FIN ’16 MBA, chair of the Office of Diversity Enhancement Programs’ Advisory Board, has pledged up to $2,500 toward a 1:1 match for gifts raised as part of the campaign.

Campbell said he was thrilled to learn that his office be the beneficiary of Smeal’s Giving Tuesday efforts this year.

“Students come to the office and they need just a little extra help. We’re constantly trying to figure out a way to make things work,” he said.

What Campbell originally thought of as a “shot in the dark” job opportunity when he decided to return to higher education following several years with an Atlanta area non-profit has, instead, turned into a 15-year career at Penn State.

He said that graduation day always makes the long hours he spends on the job worthwhile. “Those are my kids up there,” he said. “When I get to watch them walk across the stage and receive their degree, or when they call me up to tell me about their new job, that’s the best feeling.”

When he considers the impact this year’s Giving Tuesday event can have on the students he has dedicated himself to help earn a college degree, he said that “in some instances, our office is the last best hope for our students, and every dollar that we raise will make a difference for them.”

To learn more and to make a gift as part of this year’s Giving Tuesday campaign, visit Smeal’s #GivingTuesday website. To help encourage others to join the effort, use #TogetherWeAre on social media.

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