Transfer student finds leadership opportunities at Penn State Brandywine

A female student sits on a chair in front of a fireplace.

Since transferring to Penn State Brandywine in fall 2022, Ava Wise has been active with several campus clubs and activities.

Credit: Penn State

MEDIA, Pa. — During Ava Wise’s first year at a private liberal arts college, neither the major she was considering nor the overall college experience felt like the right fit for her, she said. When a friend told her about the human development and family studies (HDFS) class he was taking at Penn State Brandywine, the topic piqued her interest and she began looking at other colleges that offered that major.

Wise was familiar with Brandywine from visiting friends at the campus. After considering her options, she decided the small campus size, family environment, short distance from home and strong HDFS program made Brandywine the right choice for her.

“For the most part, it was a really smooth transition, and once I got here, everyone was so welcoming and I found my footing pretty quick,” she said. “I had people that I knew here already, students that went here to guide me through the social aspects. But staff was very helpful. I was never confused about what to do once I reached out for questions.

“When I took my Intro to HDFS class, I was talking with (Assistant Teaching Professor of HDFS) Michael Sturm a lot, and he was helping me find my footing. He helped me a lot to figure out the direction I want to go.”

“I wanted to put myself out there more and really push my boundaries that I'd set up for myself to see how far I could go and it's making my experience more fulfilling.”

—Ava Wise , Penn State Brandywine student

Once she enrolled at Brandywine for fall 2022, Wise immediately became involved with campus life. Now, in just her second semester, she serves as president of the Brandywine Music Association, administrative coordinator of Brandywine Leagues and Tournaments, secretary of PokéWalk and is in training to be a Lion Ambassador. She’ll soon begin an internship with the campus Development and Alumni Relations office.

Campus involvement has “really helped me grow as a person and find my interest,” Wise said. “I'm still unsure of what I want to do in the future, but I feel like there's so many things that I want to do and I don't have time to do all of them. But I feel like doing them through clubs and extracurriculars is really helpful because it's benefiting me in more ways than just getting out my creative energy. It's also helping me become more social and build connections and also build on skills like leadership.

“I think it's been really great to have the balance too between school and activities because I'm doing the complete opposite what I did at my old college,” she added. “I wasn't really involved. I did dance there, but I didn't really do anything else and I was having a hard time getting through college and I was like, ‘I don't want the rest of my college experience to look like this.’ So that's why I put myself in a different position so I could grow more and be more involved because I knew what it was like to not be involved and just focus on school. I wanted to put myself out there more and really push my boundaries that I'd set up for myself to see how far I could go and it's making my experience more fulfilling.”

Wise said a highlight of her first year at Brandywine was the "Brandywine’s Got Talent" campus talent show the Brandywine Music Association and Brandywine Events and Activities Student Team hosted last November. She was one of the key organizers of the event, managing the schedule and equipment needs of the performers.

“I thought that was really unique that we got to put on such a big event like that and help so many students share their talents,” she said. “I never thought I would be that kind of person to take on leadership and be involved as much as I am. Getting that opportunity to help organize an event to that extent was really validating, I guess, to all this time that I've been putting myself out there. It's really cool to be a student on campus and do things for other students and see that work and energy pay off.”

As for her own talent, Wise has been playing flute since fourth grade and added piccolo a few years ago. She’s also learning to play a ukulele — “It’s a rough journey with the ukulele,” she laughed — and recently acquired a violin so she can expand her musical abilities. She’s also been involved with dance.

Wise choose to live in Orchard Hall, the campus residence hall, for her first year at Brandywine.

“I didn't really want to commute from home because I want more of the college experience and to have more independence, and help me grow as a person,” she said. “I think it's also really helpful to push me to be more involved. It gives me more opportunities to go out there and do something, or have a club meeting, or a attend an event and stuff like that. I really like that.”