Scranton Lion Ambassadors start year with new members, new leadership, new ideas

Nittany Lion Shrine at the Scranton campus with view of mountains behind it
Credit: Penn State

DUNMORE, Pa. — Caitlyn Hugendubler, Penn State Scranton’s administrative support assistant in the campus’ Admission Office has recently taken on another new role — Lion Ambassador adviser — and so far, like the student ambassadors she works with, has had a very positive experience.

“Although I had previous experience working with student ambassadors, there is always a learning curve when you take on a new role,” she remarked. “I had to catch up on the culture of the program, existing expectations, and get to know the student leaders.” 

She then went on to say that being the adviser to the organization has been an extremely rewarding experience for her. 

“I have heard the students on what they would like to see in the program and assisted them as they implemented this,” she said. “I have really seen these students grow their skills, while simultaneously seeing the program expand.” 

She also praised the efforts of the students on the organization’s executive board, and lauded them as the people that move the organization along. 

“I have very much enjoyed working with these students, helping them achieve goals they have set for the program and getting to know their professional goals for after graduation,” Hugendubler exclaimed. “These students are smart, talented, and passionate about the program — they really are an asset to this program.” 

Hugendubler said that one of the Lion Ambassadors’ biggest successes is that it helps students transition through the program with mentorship and leadership from the students who came before. But this process has seen a challenge: when the group started helping with admissions events in the fall, only a handful of upperclassmen were still in the organization. This had a silver lining though: With the absence of experienced students, there came a new crop of Lion Ambassadors who had newfound opportunities to step up and shine with leadership, enthusiasm and Penn State pride. 

Recently, the group added 16 new members who were inducted last month at a campus ceremony. They are: Erick Alonso, Tanner Begin, Catherine Bennett, Raj Gandhi, Matthew Howard, Celeste Juarez, Brooke Kloss, Matthew McNichols, Enrique Olmedo, Ericka Pica, Avianna Pugliese, Rafael Rios, Amanda Rzucidlo, Alana Scanlon, David Stoshick and James Charles Vasconez. 

When asked why students should join Lion Ambassadors, Hugendubler said that the club “allows students to develop skills and gain experiences so they can grow personally and professionally. For some students, this may be leadership, communication, organization or simply time management. It also provides students with a sense of belonging, an opportunity to develop friendships, and leave a lasting impact on our campus community.” 

Current Lion Ambassador President Amanda Moody said she got involved with the organization because of an information card she received in the mail, which led to her decision that she should get involved on campus. 

Moody, a third-year psychology major, also said that being a Lion Ambassador has allowed her to experience much personal growth over her three years in the organization. 

“I have definitely gained a lot more people skills and I have also become more confident,” Moody stated. “I think it is important to uphold the six Penn State Values, as well as the values of the organization.” 

As Moody’s time as president draws to a close, one Lion Ambassador’s time as president will just be getting started. 

Matthew Howard decided to become a Lion Ambassador because of his desire to help people. 

“Involvement in this group has been beneficial because it has allowed me to make great friendships with the Lion Ambassadors and the admission workers,” Howard remarked. “My involvement in Lion Ambassadors has increased my passion for helping others, whether giving tours or just meeting people that I can help.” 

Howard, a first-year meteorology major, was recently selected to be the group’s next president, and will be transition into the role throughout the spring semester. Although he is new to the position, he already has some plans laid out for the organization, which include coming up with fundraising options, having Lion Ambassadors work their three mandatory events in the spring, and encouraging Lion Ambassadors to work other events ran by the organization. He also wants to meet with the Lion Ambassador Council monthly, schedule monthly organization-wide meetings, and lay the foundation of what the group can do, not only during the semester, but for years to come. 

A significant goal of Howard’s, though, is attaining new members. Even though the organization recruited many students at the spring club fair, he wants to go even further in allowing them to get the most out of the organization that they can. 

“I plan to help them achieve all they need to become Lion Ambassadors, as they need to sign in, go to the mandatory events and others, and complete their background checks and clearances,” he said. “I will work with our council, update everyone and make sure that the club is rolling and active as it needs to be. I take my position very seriously, as our program does so much to help upcoming and prospective students.” 

As Howard transitions into the president role over the next semester, he will have the help of a few fellow students who serve on the Lion Ambassador Council, the club’s executive board. 

Raj Gandhi said that the thing that drew him to the Lion Ambassador organization was that it fit his personality perfectly. 

“The leadership aspect was appealing to me," he said. "The organization also fits my personality by being fun and optimistic.” 

Gandhi, now serving as the club’s social media coordinator, also stated that being a Lion Ambassador has helped him improve his communication skills and make outside connections. 

When asked about his responsibilities as a Lion Ambassador, Gandhi said that being a Lion Ambassador has been a step up for him in terms of having responsibility and stepping into leadership roles. 

“I felt more responsible because of my classes, leadership position, and activity within the organization,” Gandhi remarked. “I consider myself very serious when it comes to tours; I give them with PSU pride and honesty.” 

When Gandhi, a first-year aerospace engineering major, was asked why he would promote the Lion Ambassador organization, he said that it is like being a part of a big family with students across the commonwealth. 

“Being part of the LA Program has given me chance to grow in college. It is something that a first-year student should be exposed to in order to become well-rounded. I made new connections and friends in the organization, and it is worth my time to be a part of something greater than myself.” 

Sarah Marble has been a Lion Ambassador for two years, and since July, has served as the group’s membership coordinator. She joined the club because of the positive impact that she wanted to have on others. 

“When starting my college journey, I knew I wanted to continue holding leadership roles and serving my community as I did in high school,” Marble said. “I wanted to make an impact on campus and become a part of something larger than myself. Once I learned of the Lion Ambassador program, I knew I needed to apply and become a part of the amazing program.” 

Marble then went on to say that she feels being a Lion Ambassador will help her with her personal growth, leadership abilities, and her future career goals. 

“I believe that being a part of this organization will allow me to grow as an individual, learn from others, be able to positively influence those around me, and make invaluable memories as a Nittany Lion,” she remarked. “I also feel that I will be able to be a positive influence in the lives of others as this organization did for me when I was making one of the most important decisions of my life in deciding to attend Penn State Scranton.” 

As the membership coordinator, her job is to keep track of all things membership and make sure that all members have the clearances and training necessary to be a part of the organization, as well as keeping notes of meetings and providing enthusiasm and counsel to all other Lion Ambassadors, current students, and prospective students deciding what to do next in their college journey. According to Marble, this is a big part of why she takes her role as a campus representative seriously. 

“Prospective students and their families will seek my input, knowledge, and experiences as a way to gain an understanding about Penn State Scranton leading to important college decisions,” she stated. “Lion Ambassadors offered invaluable insight into all things Penn State Scranton when I was challenged with making the decision where to attend college and heavily influenced my decision to commit to Penn State Scranton and my goal is to do the same for them.” 

This spring, the Lion Ambassadors and the admissions department will be welcoming prospective students and families on campus for Penn Stater for a Day, the Accepted Student Program, and the Spring Open House. Hugendubler said the Lion Ambassadors at these events “make a wonderful impression of our campus and all we have to offer at Penn State Scranton.” 

Students can apply to join the Lion Ambassador organization on the Penn State Scranton website, linked here. Anyone with questions should contact Hugendubler by email at [email protected].