An exceptionally tall, well-groomed man wields a bullhorn on Sutherland Plaza at Penn State Abington. Is he a protestor preparing to launch into a diatribe about taxes or politics?
“These days, the guarantor of character and quality is each individual, doubling down daily and remaking themselves in their own image. With my brand? There's no one I'd trust more.”
He is definitely not a protester. Clearly, Abington senior Michael Collett is a gifted communicator. He wrote and delivered three monologues on campus last week that his independent study adviser described as “part poetry, part comedy, party history, part social critique, part vision of who we each might become.”
The letters, arts and sciences major chose movement as the theme: a person moving through space, on moving through time, and on an idea progressing through a culture. And move he did, delivering the first monologue inside at Woodland Commons before heading outside of the Lares and then the Sutherland buildings during lunchtime.
The first monologue vividly and humorously described his 25-mile commute from South Philadelphia to Abington via bus, subway, train and foot. The audience was captivated as Collett extrapolated his own emotions, prejudices and expressions to demonstrate our commonalities as we finesse our way through daily life.
Collett had specific reasons for choosing the structure of his work. “The monologue is accessible, immediate and personal in a way that many other presentation formats aren't,” he said. “The best poster has to be looked at to have an impact, but the spoken word, especially when amplified, has a real power that separates it from other ways of disseminating ideas.”
The 26-year-old’s background reflects the theme of his monologues. When he was younger, his family lived in Kuwait before relocating to several California cities and then to State College, Pa. He attended the University of California before transferring to Penn State's University Park campus and eventually enrolling at Abington.
During a break from college, he convinced the owners of an art gallery to sponsor his bike trip through Mexico as a promotional tie-in for an upcoming exhibit. His academic background includes a mix of corporate communication, integrative art, political science and Portuguese.
Collett enrolled in a course last fall taught by Ross Brinkert, associate professor of corporate communication at Abington. The 6 foot 7 inch Collett immediately impressed Brinkert with his intellectual, and physical heft.
“He distinguished himself in the traditional academic sense but also in terms of his creative ideas and achievements,” Brinkert said. “He completed an effective speaking course over winter break and developed the monologues as part of independent study this spring.”
Collett continues moving through time, space and Abington as he prepares to graduate in August. The consummate communicator is searching for a fulfilling role that will allow him to connect with the world.
“I aspire to learn the best practices of the advertising industry. Eventually, I want to run my own firm that would provide world-class communications for socially-minded enterprises and develop ethical campaigns for large market brands,” he said.“I see the persuasive image, whether moving or still, to be the dominant language of our time, and I want to master it."