Student Engagement - Richard Lu
What activities are you engaged in outside the classroom?
I was able to start a baking club at Penn State and become its president because of the support I received from many amazing friends and incredible mentors. This journey began when I first entered university, uncertain of my identity and who I aspired to become. The one thing I felt certain of was that I wanted to learn how to bake and become skilled enough where I could make delicious desserts for my family and friends. In pursuit of this goal, I explored every resource and opportunity possible to find a place amongst bakers. What I discovered quickly was that Penn State did not currently offer what I was looking for, and in my disappointment, I voiced my feelings to my advisors, friends, and even faculty I’ve never met before to discover some possible way to make my goal a reality. As they listened with endless patience and empathy, each person began to see the gaps in my approach and suggested that I needed to have a greater focus on what I desired. These suggestions led to my self-exploration and eventually to my mentors encouraging me to start my club: a place where individuals can share a common passion in infinite forms.
What did you hope to gain/have already learned from the experience?
I really just wanted to learn how to bake. A simple but firm aspiration that somehow led to me creating something greater than myself.
How did each experience make you a better student?
Starting a club from scratch proved to be as difficult, if not more difficult than I imagined. In addition to not knowing how to bake, I had to learn more information and skills about what it means to establish a space with accuracy and accessibility. I also learned how to write emails. How to talk to people. Learning to see failure as a benchmark to success. Seeing rejection as advice and support. I would say this mindset, which I’ve only begun to understand, is why I could succeed and why I can continue to grow as a student both inside and outside the classroom.
Did your engagement help you explore majors?
Definitely. I loved how much I could learn from exploring everything available to me. Sometimes even opportunities that are not yet accessible by my standing. This exposure and discovery are what I love most about university, and I decided that I wanted a major that would continue to give me this experience. The more I engaged with whatever I could find, the more I understood who I was. There were many times that I would feel uncomfortable and vulnerable, but these experiences only led me to be more resolute in what I wanted out of my education.