10 Questions with Ali Martinson
Scholar planning to "SHO" new students the way
By Megan Dutill ‘13
College Relations Intern
For three days, 300 incoming freshmen and 100 returning Scholar mentors descend on the Schreyer Honors College each August before the start of the fall semester. That means dozens of events to coordinate, nine meals to plan, one T-shirt to design and hundreds of details to oversee. It’s all a part of SHO TIME 2012. And for Ali Martinson, it’s all part of the job.
Ali, a junior Schreyer Scholar majoring in biology in the Eberly College of Science, is the lead mentor for SHO TIME 2012 – the Schreyer Honors College's orientation for incoming freshman Scholars. The orientation packs new students' first days on campus with fun, resources, new friends and student mentors to introduce them to college life.
As lead mentor, Ali is in charge of all of it. She helps select and train the student mentors and works closely with faculty and staff to coordinate the schedule. With planning now in full swing to get the fall semester off to a good start, we caught up with Ali to ask her "10 Questions” about SHO TIME and her own Penn State experience.
- So you're the lead mentor for SHO TIME. What made you decide to apply for that position?
I remembered coming in as a freshman and being nervous, not knowing whether I would like everyone and how I was going to adjust to being at such a huge place. But SHO TIME was so much fun! It's such an exciting time, and the opportunity for me to shape this experience and plan the first three days for the freshmen is amazing. I really want to make it the best experience possible for all the incoming freshmen so they have a good foundation and some new friends to start off the year.
- What's your vision for SHO TIME 2012?
To learn all about Penn State without knowing that you're learning, because you're having so much fun! We're going to trick you into knowing everything you need to know to survive your first semester – how to do laundry, who to go to for help in Schreyer or in the advising offices, and how to use our online course management system. There's so much here. During SHO TIME, our job is to tell freshmen what is here, where can they find it and when can they use it. It can be difficult to navigate everything on your own.
- What does it mean to be the lead mentor? What are your responsibilities?
I'll be planning the events, deciding the theme for the meals, helping to design the ever-important T-shirt, running the leadership workshop and organizational meetings for our mentors this spring and generally just being a really good resource to any freshman anywhere. So that entails a lot of meetings with our fabulous team leaders, emails and a lot of coordination. I see myself as the face of SHO TIME 2012 so I am determined to know almost everything there is to know about the Honors College. I want to be able to answer any question any freshman – or any mentor, for that matter – ever has. That's my goal.
- What do you hope students (freshmen and mentors) will get out of these three days?
I hope that the freshmen are able to get some great advice from the mentors, meet some friends, get a better understanding of what their first semester is going to be like and feel equipped with resources to deal with it. And I hope that the mentors are able to genuinely form connections with their mentees and keep in touch. SHO TIME is not only three days – I want the impact of SHO TIME to last throughout the entire semester and beyond. That's really important – to get people together and ready and excited for their first semester, and to know that we're going to be here for them throughout the year.
- Looking back, what do you remember about your first three days?
I remember SHO TIME as being a bit of a blur. There were a lot of events in those three days. I remember meeting people that I saw the next week in my Honors biology class, and I knew their name and it made me feel a little bit better. I remember getting used to having a roommate and my first meals in the dining halls. It was really fun, and I remember thinking that I wanted to become a mentor and help make those first days go smoothly for new students.
- How would you compare your freshman self to who you are now?
I've changed a lot throughout college, and I think that's all part of the journey. I've changed what I wanted to do. I've changed how I interact with people – I've definitely become a more confident and outgoing person – and I feel like I've been given experiences where I can go out into the world and do what I want. I can help people, I can make a difference, and I'm going to. That's something that I've really learned through being at Penn State and being around other motivated people. It's great, and it pushes me a lot. I have strong convictions about what I want to do now, and I'm very excited.
- Best advice for incoming freshmen?
I'm going to stick with a couple classics: Leave your door open, meet your floor, and figure out time management – but also manage to have little bit of fun. Join a couple of organizations that are really interesting. It's okay to be on 10 email listservs, but you gotta get off a couple of them eventually. Choose what is most interesting for you, and go for it. It doesn't have to be all work – but it can't be all play, either!
- School, research, clubs, SHO TIME – how do you fit all of this in your schedule?
You just keep on top of things. I have an agenda and write down what I need to do for the day and get it done as best as I can. I also check my email a lot – I think if you check your email frequently, anyone can either be a good leader or improve their leadership. And I pay attention in class. That's my advice to freshman: pay attention in class, and it will make your life easier, I swear.
- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself working as a speech pathologist. My greatest interests are helping people and doing something related to science so I put those two things together and tried to figure out any kind of career that would combine those. As someone who talks all the time, I think that communication is so important, and being stuck and not being able to communicate what you want with other people is such a terrible situation. To be able to help someone communicate with the world after they've lost the ability or maybe never even had it is so important. I think I have found my niche.
- What tipped the scales for you? Why Penn State and the Honors College?
I applied to at least six schools but I knew after visiting here that being in the Honors College would give me more opportunities than anywhere else I applied. I knew that Schreyer would give me small class sizes and the chance to interact with alumni, faculty and important people in the community. It would also allow me to live within a small community in a big school, which is exactly what I wanted. I cannot picture myself anywhere else. I made the right decision!