ABINGTON, Pa. — Penn State Abington student Linda Zhang is the recipient of Penn State’s 2022 Mary Lee Hobbs Steel Emerging Leader award, which recognizes outstanding achievement by a sophomore or junior who has demonstrated leadership within the campus, the community and the classroom, and who has exhibited creativity, initiative and continued involvement in the University and surrounding communities.
Zhang said she was surprised and grateful to receive the honor, which includes a monetary award that she will use toward tuition.
“It reaffirms that I should continue to work to make others’ experiences better,” the sophomore marketing major said.
Her restless nature contributes to her urge to improve the lives of other people.
“I’m always seeking to try new things,” she said. “I like to be innovative and proactive. I don’t want to just lay around and be passive. I want to be a change agent.”
Zhang dates her leadership roles back to elementary school and to high school where she served on the principal’s advisory team.
“I always push to improve and grow as a person, and I really enjoy interacting with people and seeing inputs turning into outputs. It’s a gratifying feeling,” she said.
Zhang’s involvement at Abington includes a key role working about 15 hours each week in the LionShare food pantry, which she calls the most defining and most meaningful experience of her life.
"We are committed to destigmatizing food insecurity issues and mitigating the distress that individuals are experiencing. LionShare is dedicated to being in alignment with humanity and that starts with helping our very own students," she said.
Zhang, the first in her family to go to college, also is active in Abington Campus Entertainment and as treasurer for the Lions Gate Student Council, which plans events and connects students living at the Lions Gate student apartments at Abington.
This spring Zhang was one of the student leaders of Abington’s Alternative Spring Break, an off-campus educational service opportunity that explores issues facing vulnerable populations.
“We talked about what causes homelessness and poverty, and what can we do as individuals to help," she said.
Zhang emphasized that volunteering can be helpful even if it’s not ongoing.
“You can always seek to volunteer to help change a life, even if it’s just one time, instead of being passive. All the organizations we visited during Alternative Spring Break appreciated our service. We might just be helping pack up food, but the impact goes a lot further than that,” she said.
Zhang looks to Tracy Reed, the assistant director of Student Affairs who coordinates Alternative Spring Break, as a mentor on campus.
“There are moments when I doubted myself and my abilities, and Tracy gave me positive affirmations that helped me go further and achieve greater milestones,” she said.
About Penn State Abington
Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century public higher education within a world-class research university. With more than 3,000 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 23 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer honors program, NCAA Division III athletics and more.