Blue Jays return to the nest, join faculty, staff

Gwen Fries September 11, 2015 0

With the addition of Chris Morgan, ’91, as Elizabethtown College’s new athletic director, one can’t help but take note of the number of alumni who now serve the College as faculty members and staff.
Dr. Kyle Kopko is one of those alumni. Kopko graduated with a degree in political science in 2005. While an undergraduate student, he participated in Mock Trial, the Academic Integrity Committee, College Republicans and the Honors program. Five years later, he accepted a position to return to the College as an assistant professor of political science and director of the pre-law program. Kopko now serves as the advisor for three of his former organizations: the Academic Integrity Committee, College Republicans and the Honors program.
Though the transition from member of the student body to faculty member could be jarring, Kopko insists his journey was “seamless.” He used to stop by the College when home from his graduate studies, and many of the professors he came back to visit insisted he call them by their first names since he was no longer one of their students.
“I became a professor because of my experience at Etown,” Kopko said, explaining that when the position became available, he knew he had to “throw [his] hat in the ring.” Once he returned to the College as a faculty member, he found that none of his peers “ever treated [him] like a junior colleague.” Kopko jokes that he may have made them feel old, but he believes he also made them feel proud.
Though some of the buildings have changed since Kopko was an undergraduate student, he says that the people, staff and the traditions remain the same. He still eats weekly lunches in the Marketplace with the honors students he now advises.
Kopko believes his time as an Etown student has helped him become a more effective professor because he and his students have “shared understandings,” which Kopko says helped him to “establish expectations.”
Another person whose own student experience has helped him establish expectations is Adam Moore, ’14. As a student, Moore majored in mass communications and minored in pro-writing. He was actively involved in Student Senate, played lacrosse and served as the sports editor for the Etownian. Moore described his shift from student to staff as “interesting” due to his recent graduation. “At first, I went to school with three-fourths of the student body,” Moore explained. Some of his relationships went from entirely friendly to professional in the course of a summer, and some of the relationships in his life shifted from professional to friendly. “Most of my professors told me to call them by their first name,” Moore said. He added that one of the benefits of working for a college where one was a student is the good relationships one already has built up. “You don’t start from scratch,” Moore said.
Moore believes that his time as a student at the College help him with his current position as an admissions counselor. After having lived on campus for four years, “We know who we’re looking for,” Moore said, referring to involved, hard-working students who play active roles in their community. “Sometimes I spend time with high school students, and you can see them as Elizabethtown students.” His time as a lacrosse player also aid him in his work as the coordinator for athletic recruitment because he knows exactly what the prospective student is going to go through.
Sabina Post, ’08, who serves as the director of study abroad also knows what Etown students are feeling and uses her experience to help them. Post double-majored in international business and Spanish, and she studied abroad in Strasbourg, France, and Barcelona, Spain. She also had two internships abroad in Germany and Switzerland. When Post was on campus, she served as the student assistant in the International Programs office. This is where she discovered a path for her life and decided to pursue a master’s degree in international education. “Having studied abroad through an Etown study abroad program helps me understand what a normal Etown student goes through, especially the transition of coming back. That can sometimes be a difficult adjustment after a semester abroad, and I can relate to that,” Post said.
Elizabeth Braungard, executive director in the Office of Marketing and Communications, graduated from the College in 1986 with a degree in communications. She says that in the years between her time as a student and her return as a staff member, the College had become even more service oriented and focused more on organized service work. She also noted how different the communications program is due to changes in available technology.
Partly due to her time as a student, Braungard has a “great love for the institution” and believes her personal commitment to Etown enables her to convey a “real passion” for her work in spreading the message of the College. She acknowledged that even if some of her co-workers attended other institutions, they share a “heartfelt commitment to the history of the College and its students.”
This is a sentiment shared by Mark Clapper, director of Alumni Relations, who graduated from the College in 1996 with a degree in English and a minor in history. “I appreciate this community,” Clapper said. “There are so many people who are not alumni, but they’re Blue Jays.” He referred to the non-alumni who still respect and feel the same responsibility for the history and the message of the College. “If you serve this place, you’re a Blue Jay.” He enjoys when people come to Etown from different backgrounds and are able to bring their different experiences to help traditions evolve.
“Being a graduate makes it [his job in Alumni Relations] more significant,” Clapper said. “There’s an authenticity there. There are shared experiences or threads that tie us together.” His time as a student helped make him aware of where the College has come from and continues to help him maintain relationships between alumni and Etown.
Much like Kopko and Post, Clapper’s experiences as an Elizabethtown student helped him decide on his career path. “I knew I wanted to work in higher education,” Clapper said. “The thought [of working at the College] had crossed my mind as a student.” The connection he felt with the people at Etown and the “respect and gratitude” he had for what the College had meant to him led to him having a dream of someday working there. “I used to think, ‘It would be great if it would work out someday.’” When the opportunity to work in Admissions, and later in Alumni Relations, Clapper “didn’t have a second thought.” Because the College had done so much for him, he wants “to be a person who makes this experience special for others.”

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