By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend
First impressions go a long way. Just ask Amyelia Payne.
Four years ago, while searching for colleges, the New Castle native toured Penn State Behrend. That’s all it took for her to make up her mind.
“We had this awesome tour guide, and right away, I knew Behrend was for me. I instantly fell in love with the campus,” the senior interdisciplinary business with engineering studies (IBE) and international business major recalls.
Payne’s experience that day would later influence her campus involvement as a student. When she looked into organizations to join, one club resonated with her.
“I loved Lion Ambassadors because a Lion Ambassador was the first person that I met when I came to campus,” Payne says. “I remember how that influenced me, and I wanted to have that same impact on students when they came to tour Behrend.”
Joining Lion Ambassadors was just the start of Payne’s influence and involvement. She joined Lambda Sigma and Beta Gamma Sigma, both national honor societies, and also became very active in Student Government Association (SGA). As a junior, she was SGA vice president before serving as president this past year.
Through SGA, Payne has left her mark. She’s helped spearhead discussions and preliminary plans to transform Erie Hall into a fitness and recreation center and Behrend’s SGA played a part in expanding Penn State’s smoking policy to include electronic and vapor cigarettes.
As SGA president, Payne also introduced an international seat on the organization’s board in response to the college’s growing international student population. This past fall, Penn State Behrend welcomed 186 international students, the largest such class ever at the college.
“We’ve seen such an influx of international students, and this was done to ensure that they had equal representation,” Payne says.
Payne’s involvement on campus was recognized in April at the 66th Honors and Awards Convocation where she was named the recipient of the Thomas H. Turnbull Award. The award recognizes a Penn State Behrend student who has contributed to the college community through outstanding qualities of character, scholarship, leadership and citizenship.
As it happens, when it came time for the naming of the Turnbull Award winner, Payne was already on stage handing out awards as part of her duties as SGA president.
“I had been standing up there for more than two hours smiling, and by the time they got to the final awards, my face hurt. I heard them say IBE and international business major and I thought, ‘Wait a minute; I’m the only one here with that double major,’” she recalls. “I was so shocked, but it was an incredible feeling to be recognized. I’ve given a lot to Behrend in four years, but I could never repay the experiences that it’s given to me.”
This week, Payne will graduate with her IBE degree and head to Cary, North Carolina, to intern with LORD Corporation this summer. She will study abroad in Barcelona this fall before graduating with her international business degree in December.
She says she will miss her time at Behrend, but she’s also hopeful and excited for the future.
“I’m not sad. There have been times over the past month when I’ve thought about it, but why be sad? It’s inevitable, so there’s no reason to dwell on it,” Payne says. “Everyone comes to college to get a degree and for their academics, but it’s what you do outside your degree that makes your experience unique. I’ve done all that I could, and I think I’m looking forward to that next stage of my life. ”