“There’s so much here at this university, why not take advantage and throw yourself into something you’re uncomfortable with?” says Taylor Lender, a senior majoring in psychology and English. From the moment Lender accepted her admission to Penn State through now, only three weeks before turning her tassel at graduation, she has thrown herself into challenging situations.
“Campus involvement is so important,” Lender says. “If you come here and just go to the classes, you’ll learn the material, but you won’t necessarily learn about yourself and what you’re capable of.”
Before even stepping onto campus as a freshman, Lender accepted a challenge to backpack in the woods with a group of student, all strangers to her at the time. This adventure happened through the Aurora program, which is a wilderness orientation that allows Penn State student leaders to bring apprehensive incoming freshmen on a five-day backpacking trip.
“The reason I fell in love with it wasn’t necessarily because of the muddy, rainy backpacking through the humid August air,” Lender says. “It was because I really felt the Penn State community within that program.”
By paying individualized attention to each student the trip leaders encouraged Lender and each of the students to believe that they could make it through the trip and truly enjoy it.
“Everyone really lifted each other up and helped each other when things got bad,” Lender says, “and I felt this is what Penn State is going to be like, and it’s proven to be true ever since.”
As a double major, one would think Lender is busy enough with classes, but her schedule is really filled with exciting extracurriculars.
Lender decided that she wanted to become a trip leader to help incoming freshmen feel as confident as she did when she came to campus freshman year. Through being an Aurora trip leader, Lender discovered that she has a passion for helping others develop confidence and leadership skills.
At the Leadership and Innovation lab, Lender works to study topics focused on leadership and creativity. The lab helped Lender write her thesis, which actually focused on the backpacking organization program and leader dyads within the program.
“I wanted to bring something in that I was really passionate about that was kind of close to home,” Lender says.
In addition to learning more intensely about the research process, Lender says that the process has also taught her more things about herself along the way.
“It was weird taking more of a psychological and scientific approach to something that, to me, was so emotional,” Lender says.
Lender is also involved in the Leadership Development Center (LDC), a partnership between the Schreyer Honors College and Penn State’s Industrial/Organizational Psychology Program. Lender aids leadership experts in conducting a simulation business day with students in managing positions. As students face fake challenges that could arise in the workplace, experts evaluate their leadership and management skills. The program allows students to assess what they need to work on and also show potential employers what they excel at.
As if Lender wasn’t doing enough to help her fellow students succeed, she also works with Penn State Learning as a writing tutor, in which she helps students transform thoughts to words.
“It’s cool that I get to help people through the writing process and learn about what they’re thinking about or how they’re thinking or what they’re really trying to say,” she says.
Lender, who is graduating in May, can definitely say she has learned a lot about herself during her undergrad through her activities around campus.
“When you graduate you can say ‘I accomplished all these things’ and it’s not necessarily from the classes, that’s kind of a given, but you get to tailor this experience to who you want to become.”