Leading an Active Life - Q&A with Sue Gelsinger

Sue Gelsinger
Sue (right) worked with students to raise
more than $17,000 for Caitlin's Smiles charity.

Sue Gelsinger, RACC's Student Activities Coordinator, was once herself a student and started taking classes part-time in 1977 at the Riverside location. She earned an associate degree in Business Administration in 1985 and in 1999 earned a bachelor's degree in Business from Alvernia.

Sue has worked at RACC since 1984 in various positions and now oversees the Student Activities Office, which includes the Student Government Association, Leadership Program and five sanctioned clubs. Sue, along with her devoted students, also plan campus speakers, student picnics and other events throughout the year.

How does it feel to come back and work at your alma mater?

It was exciting to think that I might make a difference for another student to go for their dreams through working in Student Services. I started as a records clerk and moved around a lot as I gained experience and education through the years.

What are some of the benefits of your role as Student Activities Coordinator?

My role allows me to be creative and work with excellent faculty and staff members to offer a terrific leadership program, as well as working with some of the best and brightest of students in offering a wide variety of quality programming for the entire student body. It also allows me to get involved with the students in community service, which is very important to me.

What are the biggest changes you have seen in student life from your time as a student to now?

Wow, it's been 34 years since I first attended RACC. There were a lot of activities for students but it wasn't under an umbrella of "Student Activities" like it is today. In some ways, the students were more active in that they put on plays, traveled abroad and had some big events off campus. There weren't as many students, so you knew the majority of them, especially those who were active.

Now there is more structure and we are able to offer more activities for free or at a very minimal cost for students. There are a lot of great scholarships available now that were not available then. The campus bookstore was in a mobile trailer on the parking lot of Riverside, and I took a course in a trailer on the lot, too.

What are the benefits for students who become involved in student activities?

I believe when students get involved in student activities, they open up so many opportunities for themselves. From the leadership program to being part of a club or organization or forming a team to participate in RACCy Olympics, there are many benefits. When a student has been involved, it can help her/him to get an edge on competitive admission to another college, jobs and scholarship opportunities. I not only see these students receive scholarships to help at RACC, but some receive full tuition for their second half of their bachelor's degree at a state university or private colleges from $10,000 to $30,000 per year.

By getting involved, students gain a network of other students from all areas of the College, access to sit on College committees, and opportunities to speak with administrators about the RACC experience. They also form a bond with RACC that goes on far beyond their future schools. Our students are very successful and no matter where they receive their undergraduate or post-graduate degrees, they have a loyalty to the school that opened them up to so many opportunities.

What are some of the best events that you have helped to organize?

The leadership program at RACC has grown from two, four-hour sessions a year to a year-long program that includes two retreats off campus, six full Fridays in the summer, and three full days in January. There is also a second tier of the program that gives students an opportunity to mentor other students in the program. We have also just added a new process so that leaders can earn certification and recognition at commencement.

Another memorable experience was being chairperson for the inaugural Relay for Life of Reading, and serving the next four years as well. In five years we were able to raise over half a million dollars for the American Cancer Society and RACC teams raised more than $12,000 each of those five years. In addition to raising money for much-needed research and patient services, we played an important role in getting information out to everyone. We also had a brand new van given to ACS at our inaugural event that is used to provide rides for patients to treatment.

Through my experience with Relay, I was able to work with very talented students to bring the inaugural RACCy Olympics to RACC last year. The student teams with one staff team raised $17,113.91 for Caitlin's Smiles, the designated benefactor for the first two years of the event. Our goal for 2012 is $18,000 and the students and staff have started fundraising already for the next event in April. I am in awe of the commitment of our students and staff to help others.