FTG 0025 - From the Racetrack to the Honors Track with Catholic Tech Leader Ryan Morris '19

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Overview:

This episode features a conversation with Ryan Morris, Class of 2019, who serves as both the Director of Media and Youth at Saint Peter Parish and as a technology teacher at Pope John Paul 2 RCES in the Archdioceses of Philadelphia. Our conversation touches on a lot of topics, from life as a racecar driver, being a Scholar at a commonwealth campus, the post-graduate fellowship process, and faith & service-based careers. You can read Ryan’s full bio and get a more detailed breakdown of the topics in the show notes below.

Guest Bio:

Ryan Morris is the Director of Media & Youth at Saint Peter Parish and a technology teacher in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia at Pope John Paul 2 RCES. Prior to working in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, he earned a BS in Business with Honors from Penn State Berks in 2019 and an MS in Global Affairs from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China as a Schwarzman Scholar in 2020. On the side, he enjoys working on startups and is also helping to start an orphanage in Isoka, Zambia. Ryan has a strong calling to serve others in his local community and abroad. Please feel free to connect with Ryan on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ryan-morris96/

Episode Specifics:

· Going to college after a full go at another endeavor, and what it’s like driving a race car

· The benefits of fully attending a Commonwealth Campus as a Schreyer Scholar

· Approaching being a student like it’s a career and being open to new opportunities

· Making the most of building a global perspective as a Scholar

· Taking theory to practice with your thesis research and findings

· Utilizing Penn State’s economic development and start-up support ecosystem resources

· Pursuing post-graduate fellowships and tips on successfully approaching the process

· Getting into teaching without an education degree and pursing a faith or service-based career

· Putting your values into action in your life outside of work as an alum

· The importance of planning and creating alternate plans as you progress through life

· The value of finding authentic mentors

· Helpful thoughts on the thesis process

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Credits & Notes:

This content is available in text form here.

This show is hosted, produced, and edited by Sean Goheen ‘11 Lib (Schreyer).

The artwork was created by Tom Harrington, the College’s Web Developer.

The sound effect is “Chinese Gong,” accessed via SoundBible used under Creative Commons License.

The theme music is “Conquest” by Geovane Bruno, accessed via Pixabay and used under Creative Commons License.

Greeting scholars and welcome to following the Gong, a podcast of the Shire Honors College at Penn State. Following the gone takes you inside conversations with our scholar alumni to hear their story so you can gain career in life advice and it spanned your professional network. You can hear the true bread of how schollar alumni have gone on to shape the world after they rind the gone and graduated with honors, and learn from their experiences so you can use their insights in your own journey. This show is proudly sponsored by the Scholar Alumni Society, a constituent group of the Penn State Alumni Association. I'm your host, Shawan Doheen, class of two thousand and eleven, and college staff member. If this is your first time joining us, welcome. If you're a regular listener, welcome back. This episode features a conversation with Ryan Morris, class of two thousand and nineteen, who serves as both the director of Media and youth at St Peter Parish and as a technology teacher at Pope John Paul, the second r cees in the archdioceses of Philadelphia. Our conversation touches on a lot of topics, from life as a race car driver to being a scholar at a commal campus, the postgraduate fellowship process in faith and service based careers. You can read Ryan's full bio and get a more detailed breakdown up those topics in the show notes on your podcast APP. Now let's stat writing to our chat with Rye in following the Gong. Ryan, thank you so much for joining me here on following the gone. I'm very excited to have another Twin Valley Raider join me on the show, first one that I've had and also a fellow Penn State Bert's affiliate. Very excited to chat with you now. You have a really interesting backstory referenced in the episode title. Here. Before you can depend state, you had a full career even before coming to Penn State when you were at Twin Valley. Can you walk us through your time on the racetrack? Yea Sean, thanks for having me and it's great to see another Twin Valley Grad here on the show, and a pen stater at that. But yeah, I before going to Penn State Burke's, I was on the path to become a nascar driver. That's that was my entire goal in life was to make it to the top ranks and NASCAR, and really it was a ten year battle right on the track. So I started off really young and quartermidgets. They're kind of like little little go karts. Quickly went over into dirt, just like sprints, Michael Sprints and the windy cars on the dirt of Pennsylvania, and then stock cars down South in North Carolina. So that was a long time coming. Had A lot of fun. I kind of miss it sometimes, but yeah, that's kind of like my fun act prior to Penn State. Just for somebody who doesn't watch Nastar, watch any formula one or these kind of things, what is it actually like to be driving a car going that fast? Yeah, let me tell you a when I so, I started driving race cars prior to getting my license, and when I went to practice to get my license, it was underwhelming because road cars are completely different than race cars. Race cars have a completely different personality and each race car, I like to say, has its own personality. Basically, you're on the edge of wrecking every single second. While on the road you're there for which is called defensive driving. I guess people say trying not to crash, but really the competitive nature. Whenever I would put the helmet on, I would become a different person, to be honest, and you're not really thinking about the risk. You're more thinking of how can I beat the guy in front of me or, if I'm in front,...

...how can I keep everyone behind me? But really the feeling is it. You almost have to experience it the to understand the full effect of it. But just think of being on the edge of maybe falling off a clift all the time. That's kind of what it's like, because you're on a line and once you get out of the groove you're out of control. That sounds really exciting. But you decided to hang up the jumpsuit and you decided to head to Penn Sate burkes. What drew you to make that decision? Yeah, to kind of give you some context, so it was my senior year of high school at Twin Valley and I really didn't have a plan going in for my junior to my senior year. I was talking to my guidance counselor and she was like Hey, you know, you're kind of you're not dumb. So I mean look like, what are you going to do? And I was like, well, I'm trying to get some sponsorship. I was trying to raise two point one million dollars at the time to go and race for a top tier team in North Carolina and I was trying to make it into the KNN series. So really, looking at the looking back at it, there was no way I was ever going to raise that in that amount of time and my guidance counselor and all of her wisdom knew that. So she was like, Hey, why don't you at least apply to one school? One School? was like, don't really likes like, like it, I don't know. It was never part of my vision. To get higher education right. Wasn't part of my plan. But I took her advice and I was like, okay, what's the closest school to me that everyone knows? And it's pence day perks. It happened to be that. I looked it up online. Pens Day perks. Okay, tuition, it's not too bad. Oh, I can commute there. Cool, I that sounds like a good option. And I only applied to Penns Day perks, no other college, and so I got accepted. I was okay, cool, and at the same time I was getting accepted, I was kind of at a really low point because I realized I am not going to be racing next year. Next year I'm not going to have funding required to race competitively in where I was right in that stage of life and in that stage of my racing career. So I was like, you know what, let me try this college thing. And I step foot on campus and I was like, you know what this could be for me? It's all right, people aren't weird, the professors are nice and I decided to put my feet in and try it out. So you get to campus and, looking at your answers to the questionnaire I provided you, you were very involved on campus and for those of you who are listening her at University Park, involvement is a little bit different out of commal campus. But I'd be curious how did you choose what you replaced racing with and how did you balance those demands with your academics? Yeah, I remembered vividly. So I've always done things a hundred percent right in racing. You can't just do it half, you know, you can't put a fifty percent and you have to do a hundred percent. You have to be committed and in as a racer, you're both a businessperson and a racer, right you're trying to get the funding, you're doing the business side of racing, and so naturally I thought, okay, well, if I'm going to go to college, I've already been doing business type things, right, with sponsor relations, done a relations, things like that. So I decided to go to bit for business and I remember vividly my first class as a freshman in college was introduction to economics, and Dr Path you may have known her from Burke's at your time. There she was teaching the course and she really was engaging and things like that, and something that I wasn't really used to before. But I remember vividly the first test. I got a hundred percent and that was sort of a benchmark to me say, you know what, I can actually do this, I can actually be a college student, and I'm not going to do it fifty percent. I'm going to be a hundred percent on this, and so that's kind of where it began and from there got involvement in many different clubs and we could talk about that, but that's kind of the the the pivot point where it's like, okay,...

I'm not a racer anymore. While it was hard to say I'm not a racer anymore, I was comfort in the fact that now I can put my efforts into something else. So what were those? Something else is yeah, so really, as a freshman or kind of wide eyed, your naive and you don't really know what to do, but you have a lot of upper classmen, a lot of cool people around you, a lot of great professors. So I quickly got into different groups like Decca Business Clubs, got to talk to different business faculty, but eventually found my way as the financial manager of Sga at Burke's and that was kind of the start into networking into other different organizations and and so forth. So start off as financial manager, then I went into VP role and then eventually president. I was a two term president at Burke's for student government, which is really rewarding. But I can remember when I was a freshman looking up at the upperclassmen and they really took me under their wing right they mentored me into they saw potential and they say, you know what, you're going to be the next president. And the president that was president, while I was financial manager. He mentored me into that position. So it was kind of it was kind of cool to see that getting mentorship early on in my academic career. So I have to ask then, how did you go about mentoring turn to the students that were succeeding you as under division students when you were in that role? Yeah, yeah, so, which interesting is my vp eventually became the president after I left and a lot of my staff members became sort of part of his cabinet, so to speak, or his board, which is really cool to see that because it was sort of a full circle moment in how Penn staters can interact with each other and say, Hey, you know what, this is only a four year commitment here, but the legacy is going to last after right, and we're going to hang hang our heads out for each other and mentors each other into different roles. So it was like a full circle moment there. But yeah, it was because I was so welcomed into the Penn state community early on that I then returned the favor, which is really cool to see looking back. That's awesome. A common theme on the show is obviously mentorship. That's the whole point of this podcast is providing on demand mentorship from alumni to students. But if you're a scholar listening, don't hesitate to reach out to students who are a little bit older than you, are year ahead of you. They can be mentors in a different way, like Ryan's talking about here, to what alumni can provide, and then you can pay that forward when you're in your third, fourth fifth year you're a Grad student. So hope you take that from from what Ryan saying here. Yeah, and really early on I treated as like a fulltime job right get the campus because I again, I was a commuter, so I got to campus around thirty eight o'clock, maybe nine o'clock sometimes, and treated as a job right and when people were there I would network right and when I was in class I would talk to the professors, and that's cool thing about a commwealth campus is that you're sort of like a big fish in a small pond. So you have that access and one on one opportunity with the professors, ononone opportunity with student leaders. I can walk into the SJ office and talk directly to the president right, which is really cool. Or even in campus life, you know when there's different I feel like a lot of times there's this there's this thought that administration at a campus or upper classmen or sort of far out there they're on unreachable as a freshman, but I felt like my experience at Penn State is particularly Penn State burgs. I was able to kind of reach over...

...and and extend my hand out when I needed it the most as a freshman and underclassman, and those are true sentiments at Penn s. A Berts, I can personally attest to that for my own experience. Ryan, ever chatting beforehand some of our similar path but that's also true whether you're at university park or any of our other campuses. To so reach out, find those faults, stay, talk to your professors, go to their office hours, asked if you can meet on zoom. That was what works now. Ryan, you talked about kind of being a hundred percent in on everything you're doing, whether you're racing, being the Student Government Association President, but you also decided to take on the challenges of being a shreier scholar. Can you talk about how you discovered that that was an option for you and how you went about becoming one? Yeah, I have to say shreires great at marketing because they had all of their what is it? The metals around, like the paper metals on flyers all around campus. People were talking about it and I was handed a flyer. I was like what is this, you know, and after talking I saw okay, Dr Feinstein reach out to doctor find since she's the honors coordinators. I met with her and at the time I didn't know it was an interview, but later she said that she was interviewing me, but I was just going in, let me get into more information. But that's really the the the doorway right is saying yes to let me, let me learn more about what this is. And I come to find out, you know, I was able to to join, even though I wasn't in it from freshman year. Right. I actually didn't know that that you can join later. So I joined later in my sophomore year and with the help of Dr Finstein, she kind of set up a path for me to fulfill my honors credits for the rest of my college career, which was nice. And but the selling point initially was, okay, let me just challenge myself in the classroom more than I already am. Right, if I'm already a hundred percent in. Let me see if I can challenge myself to go beyond that and challenge what I'm what I thought I was capable of doing. Little that I know that decision would shape the entire rest of my college career and and then after that, right after college. So I would just say if you if you see these things on campus, if you're a student on any of the campuses, any penn stay campas, and you see these things, just at least say yes to learning more about it. Right, don't just shove it off, don't put in your bag, don't throw it in your dorm. Go and follow up with these things, because you never know where it's going to lead. That's very true, whether that is applying for the Honors College, a club and event that looks of interest. Definitely listen to what Ryan just said. Now one of the tenants of our college is building a global perspective and I know Dr Fine Steen is really big on that tenant and you were able to travel abroad and help build your own personal global perspective. Can you talk about what your experiences abroad were like and what you learned? Yeah, prior to Penn state I never traveled abroad. I never left the US. The most I traveled was, you know, for racing in the East Coast and, you know, as far west as Indiana, right. So I didn't really get the traveling experience and when Dr Finstein first presented the global perspective sort of narrative, I kind of shrugged it off a little a little bit because I was like yeah, what do I need to leave the country for? But I chose to follow her advice and apply for these embedded honors courses. Now they're with shry are. You have a lot of different opportunities to go overseas for a semester, but if you can't dedicate that time, you can always do embedded honors courses where, you know, most of the course is in Pennsylvania at your campus, but then two weeks maybe during spring break, you go abroad and do some courses over there. So that's what I decided to do. I decided to go the adbedded course route...

...because you get honors credit and you also go abroad. So what I did was we were joined a trip that was going to China and Dr Feinstein was actually leading that effort, and so I joined the course and realized she is no joke. She really challenges you to push your mental capacity, how you think critically. And now she's not a business professor, but she was able to connect her curriculum to everyone in the class because everyone in the class was different majors, different backgrounds, different focuses on their educational career, and she was able to connect the course to all of them. Now I would say to what comes with shrire is a lot of funding for going overseas. So she was able to you know, we were able to get some scholarships and try our funding. It's actually fun majority of the expenses to go over there. So I would say if you guys are looking too, you know brought in your horizons overseas on a budget. Shure Honors College is the way to do it right, being college and everyone's everyone knows your financial position in college. Everyone wants to help you out. So there's no better time to get these experiences then at in college. It's particularly through Penn State trire and if you're in the college already, if Your University Park, come see us in other ten if you're at a commonal campus, talk to your honors coordinator. They can help you with all of these different types of resources, from travel to research to internships, and we'll see what we can do to help you. So sometimes you just have to ask, Right Ryan? Oh yeah, sometimes you just got to reach out and ask. Sometimes it'll fall on your lap, but the key piece is to say yes to that. And I actually was fortunate enough to go on two trips. So one was to China and one was to the Netherlands. The first one in China was for me. I was studying the the urban development of China, right, how they became such an herbally advanced, herbal advanced country, right with these cities, with smart city technology as well emerging. But also on the fin the the Netherlands side, I was I was studying drug policy, something I never thought I would even go into, but it was a very interesting course. So you may even find that you develop different interests that are outside of your major when you try to go after these these courses overseas, which I highly recommend for anyone. Don't say no to something just because you don't think you'll like it, because there's a good chance you might actually like it, you know. So you're talking about urban planning, you're talking about John Policy. You had been doing business development and sponsorships when you were a race car driver. What actually did you write your thesis on? I'm curious. Yeah, so I was actually studying different facets of gay economy, particularly in the ride sharing space. So I was studying different perceptions and use cases based on users and non users. But really the driving factor for me, you would think it would be the race car background for that, but it was really because, at the same time I was working on a startup through Penn state that actually came from one of my courses at Pence Day, one of the entrepreneurship courses, and we were trying to develop a platform that gathers all of the freelance interpreters into one platform so that hospital littles, legal offices, businesses could access that network at any time, similar to how Uber Works or lift right. You have all these you have a ride sharing APP, but you have all these freelance drivers coming together. That was really the driving factor for my thesis because I wanted to study how perceptions of privacy, processions of use correlates to the actual commitment of the user right on adopting these platforms. But yeah, I mean cool my backgrounds and racing and cars. It was cool to connect...

...that in a way. But really the driving factor was the freelance market and the GIG economy. So do you remember what your findings were? Yeah, I mean there wasn't really much of a significance in terms of negative, negative perceptions to the actual adoption. Of course there's always going to be that pool of people that will never adopt something right, but there wasn't that much significance into these negative perceptions. Of course, in the news media at the time there was a lot of negative press in terms of Uber and lift not providing adequate benefits for their for their drivers, so in the network. So that was actually on our mind and actually it caused us to adjust the startup away from the freelance side of things and actually just tapping into networks of full time interpreters that sign on to our platform to conduct their services right at a fee. So it actually for me personally and in the startup, it changed. It changed our whole focus based on the findings. That's awesome. Your thesis actually right there in action, helping you with your startup. Now, going just a quick aside, because I didn't know about that did you use the invent pin state ecosystem for that? Yeah, I was going to talk about that. So yes, so first we reached out to Burke's launch box, which is Penn State Burke's sort of local hub of the launch box, but we also reached out to invent pen state, the university parks launch box, and also other launch boxes across the Commonwealth to help us develop this. So we got some funding through that. We got mentors, some of the mentors I still talk to today, even though we're not actively pursuing the start up anymore. But yeah, that was a really transform time that that really brought a whole team together, right. I mean we wouldn't have been able to do a lot of our development without the funding that we were, we're able to achieve from the invent pen state initiative. So you took advantage of that opportunity. You took advantage of applying for and getting into the honors college as a current Penn state student and then, as you're wrapping up your time, you applied for and were accepted into a very prestigious fellowship. Can you talk about what that fellowship is, how you learned about it, how you applied for it and what you actually did when you went back to China. Yeah, so the fellowship is called the Schwartz and scholars program and it's a fully funded Masters Program in China. So it's at Chinghua University, which is basically equivalent to China's Harvard. A lot of people refer to that way. Where might take so it's a fully funded program. You live in Beijing for a year. It's actually an accelerated masters so it's usually masters takes two years. This program does it in one year and everything is fully funded. So between living expenses, plane tickets over there, your food, anything you would need for the academic side of things, everything is covered. And really I only found out about that opportunity because of Shire, because of Dr Finstein. She saw on that first trip to China that I loved it so much and I was so interested in their economy, their culture, how they interact with the world, and China, I mean China, the US, the the way it's developing right now. This is going to be how it shapes the world rank the people are going to need to study this. She saw that and recognize that that I was only there for two weeks and I needed more right. It was just a taste of what I could be learning about. And so she found this this fellowship for me. She said, you know what, this fits you. I recommend that you apply for this and I was like you sure? Are you sure? I didn't really think a fellowship was in my future. Are you sure about that? She's like yes, I'm hundred percent sure. If anyone on this campus should apply for this, it's...

...you, Ryan. So I did. I stuck it out there and I applied the interview process, which is interesting because I penn state really goes above and beyond to help their students succeed if they want it. So Dr Feinstein, the honors Cordinera at Burke's, organized a mock interview for me at campus and she pulled in all these people that I had no idea of walking in who was going to be on the panel. So she had herself, the Dean, a lot of different business faculty professors from Burke's join this panel and I walked in really confident. I saw all these people in the room. I was like, oh my gosh, what am I going to do right now? And I bombed it. I completely butchered the interview and it was like a week before the actual real interview in New York City and they drilled me. They it was ours. Actually it was hours of a mock interview which, mind you, these are tenured faculty members, this is a dean, these are, you know, prestigious people at Penn State Burke's and they dedicated hours of their time to help one student, which is amazing, right. That just goes to show how these people care. But honestly, by the end I felt a lot better because they drilled me. They they helped me fine tune my interview skills for this Perpe was for fellowships, which is something I was never prepared for in my life before. And Yeah, that was really the start. It was a bumpy road, but I went to New York and I walk into the room. It was about the same amount of people on the panel. He was like twelve people and in the middle of the room is general portray us and all these other big names, the CFO of pill pack, you know, and all these other big names in New York City for the real interview, and I was just so at peace walking in because I was like, you know what, I got this. I already was drilled for hours. I'm going to just just be calm and do this. I did it and one of the panelists afterwards came up to me and he said, you know, you're a really authentic man and you deserve this. No matter what happens, I want you to be in this program that's what he said. He gave me his business card and from that point I was like wow, okay, this this could be for me because, mind you, I'm a burke student, pense Y burks. I'm in the room with a bunch of Ivy League graduates, people in the professions, people all over the world coming to New York for this interview, and I'm a small town kid from honeybrook that went to Penn state burkes. So that was in the back of my mind. However, because I was prepared, because I said Yes to this, I felt so at peace and so calm that I was just able to say, you know what, this is what who I am, this is why I want to do this and here's why you should select me. And I was eventually selected, which is awesome. So what were you actually able to do while you were over in Beijing? Yeah, so a lot of different things. This I had the time of my life. Now it was two thousand and nineteen going into two thousand and twenty. So of course the pandemic. You always have to talk about the pandemic when you're talking about that time. So I was actually in China for six months studying. During that time, though, I had the best time my life. I traveled around China, got to know so many different people, got to talk to so many different people, Steve Schwartzman. So he I don't know if you guys can look them up if you're listening to the podcast, but he knows how to put a program together. He knows how to organize people so that they can maximize the opportunity for students. He brought...

...so many people from around the world to talk to us, professors that are world class, people that are world class to talk to us, and he actually gave us stipends to travel like that. Was Part of the program is to travel and bed yourself into China, and I took advantage of that. So we actually had things called deep dives where school sponsored event where you actually go to another part of China, you stay there for some time, you get to talk to locals, I'm you get to talk to local companies and that was really rewarding. I actually went to Shaman China, which kind of if you go there, it kind of reminds you of Florida. It's very like like it gives you a vibe of Florida, but you know that time they're I got to get to know some of my closest friends today right from around the world. So you never know where these opportunities are going to lead. But not only in China. They actually gave us opportunities to travel throughout Asia. So I took that opportunity to travel a many different southeast Asian countries, including not only Southeast Asia but nor South Korea. So so I got to talk to a lot of people there. But really the program, in addition to the academics, what's more important is finding a program that you can talk to people from around the world and get to know people at a personal level, and that's really what the value of that program right. Yeah, you get a good, fancy degree, you get on awesome education from one of the best universities in the world, you get to talk to a lot of great faculty, but the biggest takeaway from a program like that is knowing you have a network of solid people that have your back no matter where you are in your life. So, obviously, you know it was two thousand and twenty China, you had to come back to the United States at the beginning of the pandemic and you're now working for the archdiocese of Philadelphia. You have a business degree. Tell me, what are the the connections there? What are you what are you doing? Yeah, it's something you would never really like think of right. Well, for let's like kind of like the picture of my life, like race car driver, academic scholar, now working for the archdiocese, which, if, for those of you don't know what the archdiocese is, it's just the Catholic Church in Philadelphia Right, basically an area in Pennsylvania where really the archbishop resides and and has control over. But really so, yeah, I found my way into the arch diocese because of just networking with my friends. I had no idea that I was going to do this, and it's kind of a theme of my life where, yeah, I didn't know I was going to go to Burke's that know I was going to go to college. Now, after I get a master's degree from China, out of all places here I am. Yeah, so business degree in archdiocese. So my role here is director of median youth. So with that comes doing a relations comes, you know, marketing in a lot of lot to do with media technology, which kind of overlaps with business in a lot of ways. So taking my skills of fundraising, taking my skills of of navigating networks, I use that now to fund some of our media programs here at at St Peter Under the archdiocese. But I also do something that I was never prepared for, which is teach technology to middle schoolers. So part of my role under the under the archdiocese is, yes, serving a church, but also teaching at a middle school. That I'll give it to you. I Nett. Business does nothing to do with that. Nothing, but it's one of the most rewarding experiences of my life being able to encounter kids, being able to work with them, and honestly, I treat them as sort of mini college students in a way. I don't treat them like...

...middle schoolers. I challenge them to the fullest extent and it's because I wish someone when I was in middle school would have challenged me like that. I wish they would have showed me. Hey, this is what you can be calm, this is your fullest potential. So that's really what I try to do when I'm working with kids. And you mentioned media, multi media. You mentioned when we were chatting before we hit record, that you actually run a podcast for the church, for the dies archdiocese. I grew up Catholic, so I was familiar with that term. So thank you for explaining that for faults who may not be familiar with the the districting in the Catholic Church. So tell me. What is your podcast about? Any any critiques you might have for me all the way here to help our scholars? Yeah, honestly, so we're it's called real faith conversations. You can look it up on any of the platforms. It's on spotify, it's on Apple Podcast, all all the platforms that this podcast is on. You can watch that. So it's real faith conversation and really we try to be authentic and talking about faith culture and really think anything in between from conception to natural death. So with that there's a lot of range with the topics. A lot of times we talked about topics people never would have thought the Catholic Church would talk about which is awesome, right. And then we also leave room for critiquing, right, like, of course there's a lot of things in history that people disagree with. What the Catholic Church? That's okay, right. Me and my own faith journey, I didn't like everything the Kinlic Church did. I grew up Catholic and it was an understanding later. Like, what are we here for? Right, we're really here to serve other people, right, serve under under Christ. That's what we're here for. And so we leave room for people to come in who maybe aren't even Catholic, who maybe are practicing other faiths. Maybe there, maybe they've been Catholic all their life but have left the Catholic Church. Right. So we encounter all different types of people on the podcast and we leave room just to have authentic discussions, to understand their perspectives, but also understand the true meaning behind the Catholic Church. Right. There the whole why we're here question, which is really nice. But no, honestly, I don't have any critiques of this podcast. I actually have been taking notes on how I can improve this podcast, the real faith conversations podcast, because I like the way that you prep this. This the podcast he does a good job. Guys, if you're listening, he does a good job. He's a great host show Miller. If you heard that, please take notes. Thank you. Right, so, I you know you're coming back from China. You have this amazing fellowship, and thank you for the comments there, by the way. Yeah, no problem, if you know your come back from China. You have a master's degree, you have a degree from Penn state. Pretty good combination of educational credentials. You major in business. You could do a lot of different things, but what particularly drew you to a religious service based organization and Environment? was that kind of always in the back of your mind or was that something that came about after your trip to China? Yeah, I always had the intention that I would be involved in the Catholic Church in some capacity. Right, I didn't know what that was and really I initially thought it would be I would just be a great volunteer and spiritual director in some way and helping people get closer to Christ. That's what the fullest extent of what my knowledge of that was. And then I would also have my fulltime job, right, I would have a fulltime job and do that on the side. What quickly developed in my spiritual discernment was I was called The discipleship. Right, I was. I was called the something more, with my talents, my skills, my knowledge, my background to encounter people on a personal level. And so in talking to different folks that already work in the archdiocese, that work in my church, work in the school's school system, in the Catholic school system, I quickly realize there's there's gaps that need to be that need to be...

...filled, basically in medium multi media and also in the youth ministry side of things. Right. I mean so many people, when they think of the Catholic Church, they think archaic, outdated, right, not with the Times. These are some of the words you associate with the Catholic Church, which is fine. A lot of times that's true. Right, a lot of times that is true. It's a it's a institution that's been here for a very long time, and so one of the things that I wanted to do is bring a new breath of fresh air into the church, right, bring tools to evangelize digitally, right, whether that be through Youtube, through podcasts or other digital means. And really, at the same time, I was coming back to the US. Everyone was going virtual. So it was like the perfect timing in terms of Oh, how do I help, how do I serve? How do I answer the call to serve? And that's that's one of the ways, right, and actually, with the pandemic did was interesting. It made the Church advanced technologically ten years in one year. That's really what it did. It caused everybody and forced everybody to adapt and adopt these technologies that they could have been scared of before. Right, they could have not wanted to adopt these technologies, but they had to because it was covid. So the timing of it was was particularly interesting and it benefited my sort of entry into the role as director of media and youth, and so I thought, okay, now it's not just serve and then do my job. It's my job is to serve. Right, it is to serve, which we could talk about some of the opportunities that have developed with Africa and Zambie, and I'm sure we'll talk about those. But it's not only my life. I've come to the realization that my life is not about me, it's about service for other people. That's really what it's about. And all that time, all that preparation. I didn't know it at the time, getting being a hundred percent to school, trying to build my network, trying to achieve something higher than myself. I thought it was for selfish reasons. I thought it was going to be to build my career, things like that, which it can be, but ultimately it means nothing unless I'm helping other people, right. And so really yeah, there's a whole faith side. I'm sure a lot of our audience maybe aren't particularly practicing faith or into a religion, right, and that's a growing trend. That's okay, right. So there's a faith component of the Catholic Church, but then there's also a service component, and so I'm practicing both. Right, I'm I'm Catholic, I'm in a hundred percent. You may have gotten that theme so far. When I do something, I'm in a hundred percent. But when I'm servicing on the people, right, that's another piece and that's super worring for me. Right, if I think about being in an office somewhere, yeah, trying to build profits for a company, that's great, but my why, my transformative purpose, is better suited serving other people that are maybe less fortunate and with the Catholic Church. I can do that. So you already answered my question about the pandemic and how that transformed kind of the role in the services that you're offering. So we're going to skip that. And you've referenced some of the the service that you're doing on top of your job that you do personally relative to Zambia you mentioned. Can you elaborate on that? Yeah, so, honestly, I want, one of my goals in life is to travel around the world and help people in different countries, maybe an areas that are less fortunate than a lot of places in the US. Not to say the US doesn't have any problems, because we do. Just look at Kensington right there's a lot of homelessness, a lot of poverty, a lot of drug abuse. However, I wanted to try to in bed my love...

...for traveling and use as an opportunity to seek out people in need, and so part of my role at the church is to just reach out to parishioners right really encounter with them and see what they need. And one a particular family in our church is from Zambia and they were talking about how they they're from there. There's a huge homelessness population. They are particularly with kids that are lost their parents and in an early population, and sometimes they kind of just get cast it out of side. And they said, Hey, one of the things we want to do is build a home for these folks that are cast it away, that are kind of rejects of the society, and we want you to come with me choose Amvia, and I was like wow, this sounds so interesting. Yes, and I said yes without even realizing what I was saying yes to. But it was one of the best times in my life because, Oh, last summer they took me there. I went there, I spent two weeks there, I lived with their family and we actually scouted out a location to build the orphanage and a place to rent while we're waiting for the building to be built. We got to talk to some folks that were in need of a place like this and we settled on an area called Ahsoka, Zambia. There is no orphanage there, there is no elderly care facility there, and that's the place where we're building it. So yeah, this family is really dedicated towards and I told them, Hey, I'm in it every step of the way. So that's what I'm doing now. We're actually getting registered in the United States, but also in Zambia, as a as a nonprofit organization, and will be accepting donations soon. But yeah, that's sort of it's sort of fell into my lap, but I said yes to it, right, and that's sort of if you're a student listening right now and you're like grinding, trust me, I know how the grind is. If your student now and your grind and know that it can be in service of other people one day, right, your knowledge that you bring. So one thing that I bring, and using my business skills, is I'm doing all the finance stuff for the orphanage, right, I'm doing all the development stuff. They don't have that background, right, they never studied that at all. But if I didn't pay attention in class and do everything a hundred percent, I wouldn't be able to help them today, you know. So, yeah, it's really rewarding. But I'm also able to recognize that my skills are not about me, it's about servicing other people, and that's really the the the root of why I chose to help out and build that orphanage in Zambia. I think across the last two questions. Common Thread with Shire Scholars is that service element, whether there is a faith component or not. I think most scholars, all scholars, are attracted to the college because of that underlying theme of service that trying to underguards our mission. Now I want to pivot to kind of the third, the last third of our conversation, and you're younger alum and you're still very early in your journey, but I want to talk with you on some reflective questions here. So how do you feel that your experience as a scholar who graduated from a Commonwealth campus were unique and have prepared you for your journey so far? Yeah, I honestly think that that what I said earlier. Big Fish, smallpond when you're when you're graduating from a Commonwealth campus or even doing two plus two write. A lot of people like yourself. You started a commwealth campus and then go out to university park to finish, and sometimes that's no choice. Like my sister, my youngest sister, she did that because she was a film Major. She had no choice but to do that. For me, I had the choice to stay at Burke's or go up to up and I decided to stay at Burke's. I built up a great network. Almost everyone knew my name there and I felt at home there. So I would say the difference between sort of a bigger campus and then a smaller campus at at Burke's would be just if you have a great network built up. My my...

...thinking is why move? Right? My Change? I saved money by not living there, of course. So out of college I came out with very little debt. So I have two degrees and very little debt. Right. So I didn't have any debt for my master's and very little debt off of Pence Day Burke's, because I save money on the dorm, save money commuting and really, Burke's, their tuition isn't that bad compared relative to other schools. Right. So I would say when you're coming out of college, if you're looking at like the cost benefit analysis, try to find for me at least, I tried to find a way to spend the spend little and get a lot out of it. And when you are that big fish little pond, when you create that scenario. But it's very it's very doable to so come out with little debt and a lot to gain. Also, you know, it's you're not giving up, in my opinion, any academic quality. You know, the professors there at Burke's and now all really all the commwolf campuses are the same. Tear as up for a lot of scenarios. Sure, I mean I think university park for certain majors like engineering, perhaps they may have more equipment or, you know, hands on stuff to learn. For me, as a business major, I felt no different. The Business Faculty were amazing. I was able to get a quality education and not have the debts associated with it, you know. So that would be the biggest thing for me. I'm sure everyone's different, but those are the factors for me as to why I chose a commwalth campus and why I think I made out really well comparably to to other folks. And I'm sure you had some interesting experiences driving up one hundred seventy six. Yeah, the campaign, like I did, I also commuted from home. Yeah, Bryan and I seem to have fairly similar experiences with birds and with Fryar. So this has been I'm envisioning a lot of the things that you're saying along the way and picturing you in conference rooms and different things. So that's been it's been fun for me. Yeah, and for me. For me, I drove forty minutes of roughly every day to to the campus and forty minutes back, and I drove a beat up car. You know, you don't need anything fancy. Yeah, I think you can relate to me and in that way, but I wouldn't change a thing. Looking back, I wouldn't change the thing I love. That could be right. I save so much money doing it and I got a good time. Right, you can listen to podcast, you can listen to whatever else you know, MPR whatever, and just get in the zone. It's sort of like having a fulltime job, right. It's preparing you for that. So, yeah, I mean a lot of people to think they lose out on experience like the college experience, commuting to school, but for me, I mean, I don't know, yeah, that could be the truth, right, but for me I was able to go to football games, I was able to hang out with people do all the same stuff without the added cost, right. So just consider that. I mean a lot of the folks might be already in school, but maybe some people are. Perspective students. Listen to this. Maybe consider the commuting route. If you are willing to give up some of the partying time. You heard it from Ryan there. So what would you say is your biggest success to date? Wow, busit biggest success, I would say, and I kind of already touched on this, but I would say saying Yes to service. Yeah, I can say some of the lavish stuff that I've been a part of or some of the cool things I've done around the world, but more generally I think it's saying guest to service in the call. For me it's a call from God right. That's how I interpret this. Others may disagree, but for me my call to service is a call from God. Right, I to bring the face of Christ to all those I encounter,...

...whether that be on a mission, maybe it beyond the streets of Kensington, because I go to Kensington a lot to service those folks there and honestly a lot of times they serve me. You wouldn't think that, but they minister to me by the things they say, by things they've they've been through. I learned so much from them, those people. But yeah, saying as to service and knowing that my my body is a tool for others to benefit and I think I can die a happy person, knowing that that was my mindset in my life. So I would say that was my biggest success. That continues to breed more success for myself and other people around me. That's great and obviously I want to ask right out on the flip side, what would you say has been your biggest transformational learning moment so far in your life and career and what you learn from it? Yeah, learning moments, learning moments. I'm a planner. I've always been a planner. So, like when I talk about my analysis of college, I really I made a expreadsheet like saying, like how much was I saving, how much my spending, things like that. So I'm a real big plan of my girlfriend, whenever I'm distractors, is like are you planning again? Are you planning? Yeah, like, yes, I'm planning, but one of the lessons learned was to loosen up, loosen up your grasp on some of those plans. Everything changes. One of the questions I hate when people ask is like, Oh, what's Your Five Year Plan? What's your tenure plan? You know, yeah, I can give you an answer, but it's probably not going to be very accurate, right. I mean thinking back the last five years. Think anyone, anyone listening, think back the foot last five years. Where you are today? Is it anywhere? Were you anticipate? Like? Were you anticipating this, especially when you're thinking about the pandemic that was thrown in the way? Of course not. Most people would say no, it's not. But the lesson I learned is, yes, have a plan. It's solid right, maybe that's good to go off of, but loosen up on that and be ready to pivot, be ready to adjust, because a lot of times what comes actually comes, is way better than the plant. That's been true in my life sometimes. Yeah, you have ups and downs, but I wouldn't trade I could be racing right now, right if I if I had it my way and my plan was fulfilled, I would be racing in Nascar right now. On the flip side, I wouldn't have had these opportunities to encounter people, to go to Zambia, to go to China, to go everywhere I was in the world to help people and to be part of this great institution called the Catholic Church. I wouldn't have been able to be part of that to this extent. So if I was so firm in that plan, I wouldn't have gone to college. I would have said no to my guidance counselor and said no, I don't want to go to college, I'm not applying to any school. I'm going to be a race car driver. Maybe I could have been broken the street. Who knows how that could have how that could have gone, but I said Yes to an alternative plan and then an alternative plan and alternative planet led me to today and I'm going to continue to do that. I don't know if I'm going to stay in this role, if I'm going to move on, if I'm going to, you know, do other things. I probably will, but what I do know is I have a plan on excels, pretsheet, on on Google docs, and it's able to be changed. So that's a lesson that I've learned and I would say for those listening consider that, think about where you are, think about your plans and be willing to let it change. I'm sure you would agree, Shwan. I mean your plans have probably change so much in the past. Yeah, in the past, Yep. So yeah, if I was to give advice, that would be it is to let let your plans change, and that was the biggest lesson I've learned so earlier, at the beginning of our conversation, we talked about mentorship student to student. How would you suggest that students approach mentorship from alumni and professionals? And then also how do you approach it from both angles? You're probably mentoring your...

...students and others in your role, but you're also still young and you need mentorship yourself. What is your approach to that? Yeah, let's say always be open to as many mentors as possible. However, there's a caveat to that. Stick the ones that you think authentically care about you. There's a lot of mentors out there that kind of do it to see it if they can find the next person that can make them profit. Right in the business world you see that a lot. They mentor people for Selfish Gains. But the best mentors of the people who don't want anything in return, the ones that are willing to spend the time, hours if it need be, to say, you know what, I'm going to do this because if your best interest not my own, those are the mentors that you need to really find. I have a couple of those of my life, right, and the ones that are willing to be there in your emotional time, in your time of despair. If they leave you when you're going through a bad Rut, that's not a good mentor. You know. So I would say fine ones like that, and me as a mentor, I try to practice that as well. I mean, I'm mentoring middle schoolers. That's the time. That's a tough time. They're all over to place. I actually have noticed that even there's a lot of them that look like they're not paying attention, but they really are. One Kid told me. He's like he's like, I want to apologize for how I treat you, how how I act. I'm a horrible person, only now you're not a hard person. He's like yeah, you can say it, and he's like, but you know what, your father figure to me and I am the way I am today because of you. Looking at you, I was like really, you don't seem like you're ever paying attention to what I'm saying. He's like yeah, but I am, I am. I actually almost came went to tears because I actually didn't realize that that that kid, that particular kid, I thought I wrote him off. I was like, I'm not helping him in any way, but he comes back and tells me I am. So I would just say if you're a mentor out there, be in it for them a hundred percent, regardless of how they receive it, regardless of how they're acting, regardless of anything, being it for their best interest, and always look for that. And if you need to cut out mentors that are not in a hundred percent for you, that that's okay. I've done that in the past. I've cut out some mentors. That's okay. Always extend the line, leave your hand open. But you know, sometimes mentors aren't sometimes they're not meant to be a mentor for you, maybe for someone else. Definitely a different perspective than I think. I've heard from some other faults on the show, and a really good one to hear is, you know, find the ones that are a good fit for you. And speaking of those faults, are there any professors or friends from your days on campus at Burke's that you would like to give a shout out too? Well, I've already mentioned her name a lot in the show at Dr Finstein. You know her. She's a great mentor. Speaking of mentors, she's an awesome mentor. She she will tell you how it is. She won't sugarcoat anything and she'll tell you if you're wrong. If she thinks you're wrong, should tell you. Some people are scared that you know a lot of people at Burke. She has a reputation of being scary and unapproachable, but I thrive in that. I love that. I love when people are honest right. So definitely a shout out to her, if she's listening. Thank you so much, because you have developed me into the person I am. You've helped me and my academic side to grow as a scholar, as a shire scholar and then as a swartzman scholar as well. So thank you. I also want to shoutout Dr Path. She was my thesis adviser and also she I actually took many classes with her from freshman year all the way to senior year. So she's been a huge help for me personal mentor. She's in a hundred percent from my best interest. Let me just tell you that. Way And all the births faculty on the business side, Professor Lori, Professor Shank Wilder, all those folks that have been there for me through my career. So, if you're listening,...

...this is the result right, someone who is willing to give back and be of service in the world, using this talents, in the skills I've learned throughout the throughout the years to give back. That's what it's all about. So thank you guys so much, and I'll echo the comments about Dr Finstein. I got into the college because of Sandy. So thank you, Dr Finstein, and also thank you for connecting us. I reached out to her a couple months ago and said, Hey, are there any birds dreads that are scholars that you think would be good for this podcast? In Ryan was a'm on a small list that she provided me and we were able to connect and record here and now you're listening into it on the podcast platform of your choice. So thank you, Sandy. Yeah, she's awesome. I'm honored that I was one of the names. This is an awesome show. Well, thank you for that. I appreciate that. So we're wrapping up. Is there any final advice that you really wanted to share with tryer scholars that just didn't come up organically in any of the questions that we've discussed so far? Yeah, I mean I think a lot of times shure our scholars focus on the thesis a lot. For me, I took the practical approach. I didn't want it to be some abstract theory like that I'm researching. I wanted to be practical for my start up right at the time. So I would just say if you're if you're stressed out about the thesis, don't be. Use It as a tool to help you grow. It's okay if, by the end you don't like the topic because by the end you've looked at it so many hours, so many times, sleepless nights researching stuff. So it's okay if you don't like the topic, but just just approach it as a way of building yourself, maturing yourself and use it as a learning opportunity. Not Many undergrads get to do a thesis, so don't say you have to do a thesis. Say I get to do one, right, I have this opportunity to do with thesis. Not many other people can say that as an Undergrad. So just keep your head high and lean on your professor's lean on your advisors, because they are in it for your best interests right, so they'll help you through it. It's going to be okay. And then when you're at graduation and you have that that little lion on your chests around your neck, it's going to be well worth it. I could not have said that any better. Ryan, we've talked a lot about mentorship. If a scholar wanted to reach out to you and take this conversation further than a prerecorded on demand podcast that they just listen to, how can they get a hold of you? Linkedin's probably the best way. I think it's going to be in the description of this podcast. On whatever platform you're going to be listening to this on Linkedin, just shoot me a message say hey, I heard you on the podcast, the the shrire podcast, and I'll be willing to have a phone call with you. Set up a video call and if you want me to be a mentor, let's chat, because I want to be in it for your success as well. If you have any questions about the journey, I mean think about it. I am not the typical person you would think to be like a scholar or a shorts and scholar, or a shrire scholar at that, or international scholar. You would have never thought that I no one would have thought that I would be this right. So, if you're in if you're listening to this, you're like, I don't know if I'm up for it, I don't know if I have enough skills or whatever. Don't worry, I've been there too. It just takes practice, it takes talking to people and getting out there and eventually all this stuff will come naturally. I'm learning as well. So if you guys are out there and you're, you know, in certain space that I'm not a part of, I would love to learn about whatever you guys are doing. So reach out on Linkedin. And finally, as is tradition here and Ryan, maybe think back to either a weekend on a football game or perhaps at tully's, if they're providing the ice cream. There they are now actually the I thought I read that somewhere. So they did not do that in my days, so I'm glad to see that they have that. So put yourself at lunch time at tully's. If you were a flavor of Berkie creamery ice cream, which would you be? And as a sk all our alumnus,...

...most importantly, why would you be that flavor? MMM, that's a hard question, but yeah, they I've actually had it at Burke's and at up, which is awesome and I actually took a trip to to Ohio this past summer and I had to pass by Penn State and get some of the ice cream while I was passing through. But I have to say, since I'm so crazy and out there between what I'm doing and doing things that no one would expect, I would say a lum nice world because it's like a combination of us, like a blend of different flavors, and I think that encompasses who I am. I'm not just one flavor, I'm kind of a lot of different ones. So yeah, Lum Nice run. It's pretty good getting a bite of different things. It's nice. It's a very popular choice, but for good reason. It's an excellent flavor and a great rationale for it. Ryan, Fellow Penn State Burke's affiliate, fellow twin value Rader, thank you so much for joining me here on following the God today. I really appreciate our conversation. Thank you, Shaan. Have a good one. Thank you, scholars, for listening and learning with us today. We hope you will take something with you that will contribute to how you shape the world. This show probably supports the Shryer Honors College Emergency Fund Benefiting Scholars experiencing unexpected financial hardship. You can make a difference at rays dot PSU Dot Eedu, forward slash shreire. Please be sure to hit the relevant subscribe, like or follow button on whichever platform you are engaging with us on today. You can follow the college on Facebook, twitter, instagram and Linkedin to say up to date on news, events and deadlines. If you have questions about the show or a scholar alum who'd like to join us as a guest here on following the gone, please connect with me at scholar alumni at PSU DOT edu. Until next time, please stay well and we are.

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