The 2014 Homecoming celebrations took place in State College not long ago, but planning has already begun for next year. Penn State junior Brandon Rittenhouse was elected as the 2015 Homecoming Executive Director on Oct 27. He sat down with Valley to share his excitement for the future, and offer a word of advice to students seeking involvement. Read on to get to know your new Homecoming director!
Valley: What previous involvement have you had with Homecoming?
Brandon Rittenhouse: My first position with homecoming was Photography Captain, and that was for Homecoming 2013. It was a really amazing experience. So, after that, I decided to apply for a director position and I received the position of Merchandise Director. For this previous homecoming, I held that position. [The experience] was amazing. It was life changing. So, I decided to apply for Executive Director, and here I am!
V: What else are you involved with at Penn State?
BR: I’m involved in University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) as the Executive Graphic Designer for the Department of Communications. That’s a really awesome experience, I love working with the (UPUA) students. Additionally, I’m a committee member with the production committee of State of State, which is a conference geared toward making changes in the university.
V: I noticed you have your own photography website. When did you start getting involved in photography?
BR: I started with photography in tenth grade. That’s when I took my first in-depth photography course in high school. Since then, it’s just been one of my main passions. I’m technically majoring in graphic design, but I’m working toward a double major in visual arts with a focus in photography. It’s kind of always been one of those things that’s been a part of me since I was younger. I was always one of those visual kids. I loved to draw, I loved to look at photo books and magazines and all that stuff. Since (tenth grade), I’ve been working toward doing it as a hobby and also doing some freelance stuff like senior portraits.
V: Is photography something you want to continue with in your future? Where do you see yourself when you graduate?
BR: My big dream would be to be a fashion photographer doing fashion editorials for Vogue and crazy stuff like that. Other than that, being a graphic designer or art director. Something that I can incorporate photography with my other passion, which is graphic design.
V: As Executive Director of Homecoming, what responsibilities do you have?
BR: Besides just being the face of the organization, I’m also in charge of the Executive Committee, which is a committee including myself and sixteen other directors. Those directors all have captain committees, and some of those captains have committee members. It’s a really big organization. So beside supporting the directors, there’s a lot of stuff internally that goes on, like leading meetings, planning retreats, stuff like that.
V: What are some ideas that you want to bring to the table for next year’s Homecoming?
BR: We have such a great foundation of events and had such a successful year with turnout at events. That’s something that we want to take and build upon. I would like to see a lot more involvement from students and student organizations that usually aren’t involved, but also involvement from alumni, faculty, staff and community members. Just increasing what we did last year, and building on that to make it bigger and better. We have a lot of new stuff planned, so hopefully you’ll be hearing about it soon.
V: What do you look forward to most about being in charge and making all of these ideas happen?
BR: One of the things that I loved as Merchandise Director was that I had a big committee with 12 captains and 25 committee members, and I loved watching them experience homecoming in ways that I’ve experienced Homecoming. Watching them grow as leaders and grow as students really made it all worth while to me. So, having that opportunity again and watching 16 directors grow, and all of their captains and committee members grow, that’s something that really drives my passion.
V: What is the best advice you could give to students who want to get involved and make the most of their time at Penn State?
BR: Broaden your horizons. There are a lot of people who come in with predispositions about what they want to be involved in, and that’s something that’s really hard for Penn State because there are a thousand student organizations and so many ways you can get involved. So really, find what you like, but also do things that are outside of your comfort zone. Join organizations that you may not have even considered joining when you come into college. Just really expand and experience different things. Penn State is the best place to do it. Do it now while you have the opportunity.
V: What has following your own advice, getting involved and taking advantage of opportunities, done for you? What can you take away from your time at Penn State so far?
BR: It’s really the experiences and relationships you make that really make it worthwhile. You know, those are relationships that you can carry with you throughout your entire life. Same with the experiences. There are experiences that are tangible and experiences you can talk about outside of college. I’ve seen myself grow as a leader and grow as a person and I’ve seen it happen to other people. It’s just something that, you know, it’s hard to describe. It’s something you can really only see. But it’s something that definitely happens and makes being involved so worthwhile.
Photo provided by Brandon Rittenhouse