Attending an Undergraduate Scholars Summit

By Erica Steinhoff

“Would you like to travel to Texas and attend an undergraduate scholars’ conference?” When Matt Fee, Director of the Park Scholar Program, presented me with this opportunity, I couldn’t say no.

From Nov. 1–3, I attended the 2013 Undergraduate Scholars Program Administrators Association (USPAA) Scholar Summit. The USPAA is an association of higher education professionals who direct premier undergraduate scholarship programs across the country. Each year, the association hosts a summit that allows scholars to come together to network with one another, think critically about issues in higher education, and reflect on their current membership in scholars’ programs while contemplating their future impact. 

This year, the summit began with a keynote speech by Eric Fortenberry, founder, president, and CEO of OrgSync. Mr. Fortenberry spoke about his experience of pursuing his dream to develop OrgSync, an online tool for student organizations, and eventually ending up on Inc. Magazine’s 30 Under 30 List of the World's Coolest Young Entrepreneurs. He challenged us to think critically about using our resources to follow our passions and maximize our positive impact on the world. This made me more motivated than ever to carefully consider how I use all of the opportunities that the Park Scholar Program affords me. The program allows me to spend my free time volunteering, instead of working, and it also allows me to study internationally and emerge myself in other cultures. These experiences have greatly shaped my career goals. As a result, I have discovered my passion for nonprofits and now aspire to give back to my community every day by working for one.

The rest of the summit gave us the opportunity to share our perspectives on our scholarship programs and issues in the larger world of higher education. We participated in roundtable discussions focused on topics such as how to be a leader in your campus community, how to overcome personal barriers such as stress, and how to live each day of your life with a defined purpose. Each scholar came from a different program, bringing a unique perspective to the discussions. Through these dialogues, we exchanged ideas for improvements in our programs as well as the undergraduate scholar community as a whole.

At the end of the summit, we engaged with a panel of alumni, which included Park Scholar alumna Caitlin Castle ’09. We asked the alumni about life after graduation, giving back to our scholar programs, and much more. For us, this was an opportunity to reflect on our futures as alumni of our respective scholar programs. Personally, I was reminded of how important it is to stay connected to the scholar program in order to mentor current scholars and help them succeed. In the field of communications, it is essential to have a network of contacts to rely on for advice and recommendations. If I didn’t have the guidance of Park Scholar alumni, I would not be nearly as prepared as I am to enter the field of communications.

Stepping away from campus for the weekend and attending this scholar summit gave me a fresh perspective on what it means to be a Park Scholar. As members of this program, we must remember that we are all working to achieve a common goal of benefiting a larger community through our commitment to communications, service and academic excellence.


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