Student Spotlight: McKenna Loney

McKenna holding a shovel in a garden
Credit: Penn State

Major: Plant Sciences

Year: Second

Involvement: President of Brandywine Music Association (BMA); campus garden intern at the Center for Social Impact; peer mentor for Lion Guidez; intern for the Restorative Justice, Equity, Anti-Racism League; orientation leader; member of Sustainability Club.

Brandywine: How did you pick your major?

Loney: It was a pretty extensive process that my adviser, Jenn Traubel, really helped guide me through. She helped me pick apart my academic plan so I knew what to expect. She also told me to think about my career instead of just focusing on my major. Last year, I found out where my strengths are. Working as an intern at the garden helped find my strengths because I learned a level of knowledge about how plants function that I didn’t realize before.

Brandywine: What challenges have you faced at Penn State Brandywine?

Loney: My biggest challenge coming into Brandywine was transitioning. I commute, which is nice since I still have that support at home. Commuting comes with advantages and disadvantages. It’s great having that support, and living at home is like an escape from the campus if I need it. I thought I'd miss out on things because I commute, but sometimes it feels like I live here even though I don't stay in the dorms — I spend a lot of time on campus. Another challenge was finding a balance between academics and also having fun and being a part of clubs that I'm passionate about.

"Something I really appreciate about Penn State Brandywine is that it’s easy to navigate opportunities because of its size."

—McKenna Loney

Brandywine: How has Brandywine supported your efforts? Who at Brandywine has supported you?

Loney: Something I really appreciate about Penn State Brandywine is that it’s easy to navigate opportunities because of its size. It’s easy to tap into all the resources that Brandywine has to offer. It has a small campus feel but is still a part of a larger institution that is well recognized. That's just a perk about Commonwealth Campuses.

More specifically, Vippy Yee, the Rosenberg Director of the Center for Social Impact, pushed me to get an internship because she knew I was so involved. I had talked to her about the garden before, and she mentioned wanting to find someone to fill a paid position there. I was able to get paid for something that I already love doing. She was also the one that got me involved in BMA. During a BMA interest meeting in August 2021, she and three other students were the ones who showed up and from there we formed the executive board. As our club adviser, Vippy really helped guide us through the whole process because we were all first-year students at the time.

Brandywine: Why did you choose Penn State Brandywine?

Loney: Penn State has a huge alumni network to ensure my success beyond college. Being able to commute to a close school with many opportunities was a plus. I had ways to connect with people and get involved in so many clubs while having that small campus feel. I saw it as an easier transition into college life.

Brandywine: What made you interested in civic and community engagement?

Loney: In high school, we had service opportunities, but it was a complicated process to get involved. I also did Girl Scouts until my second year of high school, so I had some service opportunities. When I came to Brandywine, I realized there were so many opportunities to get involved in this inclusive environment. The service organizations I’m involved with emphasize supporting your community and campus, while experiencing the satisfaction of helping those around you. Everything I’m learning here has been applied to other parts of life, such as self-growth. Getting opportunities to connect with other people on and off campus has been awesome. The center has connected me to the Delaware Valley Christian Church across the street, which paved the path for BMA collaborations with them, like our Worship Jam Sessions. The Center for Social Impact has opened so many doors for me, my peers, and our campus as a whole.

Brandywine: You have a lot of experience in mentoring, from your peer mentoring class last semester and being an orientation leader. What made you decide to get into mentoring? What did you get out of it?

Loney: I love to help in any way I can. Dr. (Christine) Brown, coordinator of the Brandywine Learning Center and my first-year seminar teacher, provided another opportunity for me to do so by recommending that I get involved in peer mentorship. That personal outreach from Dr. Brown, a staff member I greatly respect, was a big push. I love connecting with and helping people. Being a Peer Mentor and Orientation Leader have been opportunities to help me see the beauty in human connection.

"Being a Peer Mentor and Orientation Leader have been opportunities to help me see the beauty in human connection."

—McKenna Loney

Brandywine: What got you interested in music? How did you decide to join BMA, and what made you want to bring music back onto campus?

Loney: Music has always been a big part of my life. I’ve been involved in choir since first grade, and I've always had an admiration for instrumentalists and other forms of music. I love all genres. It's unfortunate that there's no choir, band, or orchestra here on campus, which it comes with being a smaller Commonwealth campus. That was part of the reason why I'm grateful for Vippy inspiring us to do start BMA. Just in this past year and these past few months, bringing music onto a campus that isn't known for music has been so fulfilling.

When we mention BMA, people know what we’re talking about from seeing us tabling on campus, seeing our flyers, or attending our events. That outreach has been nice and seeing there are so many more people who still have their instruments and want a space to play music. That response has been a motivation for us to continue this and ensure the succession of this club.

"Bringing music onto a campus that isn't known for music has been so fulfilling."

—McKenna Loney

Brandywine: What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned at Brandywine?

Loney: As a student leader, I’ve learned how to be a voice for organizations and clubs, how to delegate, and, ultimately, how to be receptive to feedback. A valuable lesson, too, is I can ask for help. That has also come with student leadership. I’ve learned that I can only take on so many things before I get overwhelmed. Learning how to say “no” has been hard, but you must be your own advocate.