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Senior Spotlight ‘24: Erika Pen

Preferred pronouns: She/They

Major/Concentration: Psychology

Minor(s): Women's Studies, Social Work

Hometown: Lowell, MA

What made you choose Salem State, and what is the one thing you think a prospective student should know about our campus community?

I chose Salem State because of its location and the academics it offers as a higher education institution. Being not too far away from Boston and my hometown of Lowell, I am able to pursue an education that aligns with my career goals in a city filled with history and cultural diversity. I always tell prospective students there are so many ways you can get involved on campus. There is something for everyone from joining an academic club to a multicultural club.

What have you enjoyed most about your experience living on campus?

What I have enjoyed most about living on campus is living near my friends, whether in the same or a different dorm. College is one of the few places where you have the chance to live near all your closest friends. Some of the best memories I've had in college are because I've been able to live with friends in Peabody Hall.

What are you involved in on campus? (Student groups, clubs, organizations, jobs, internships, honors, or athletic affiliations)

Asian Student Association, Intersectional Feminist Collective, International Student Association, Theta Phi Alpha, Commonwealth Honors College, Psi Chi, Alpha Lambda Delta

Can you describe the educational value and affordability you’ve experienced at Salem State University? How has the university supported your academic journey regarding quality and accessibility?

One of the biggest things that has assisted me, especially in my senior year, is the scholarships offered by the University. As a senior, I qualified for the Viking Completion Grant. The grant has provided financial relief for my parents in paying for college.

Could you discuss the relationships you’ve developed with faculty members at Salem State and how these relationships have influenced your learning and personal growth?

As a member of the Commonwealth Honors College program, I have made connections with both the current head of the Honors Program and the past chair. These two professors have allowed me to explore the different programs offered here at Salem State.

Salem State emphasizes hands-on learning experiences. Can you share any memorable experiences where you’ve applied classroom knowledge in real-world settings through projects?

This semester, I had the chance to take Elementary Spanish 101. Spanish is a language I've always been interested in learning and improving my fluency in. Living in Massachusetts, Spanish is one of the languages most spoken in the state. Elementary Spanish has allowed me to build a foundation in the language. I can now go to Spanish bodega and order meals in the language.

What have you accomplished during your time at Salem that you are most proud of?

One of my biggest accomplishments at Salem State is becoming of the Asian Student Association. In the two years I have been, I have been able to lead ASA to a new level of what it means to be a cultural organization on a college campus. I've been able to form new friendships with other AAPI student leaders on college campuses and host an event that celebrated the AAPI diaspora with six other colleges. I won the 2023 Arthur T. Gerald Jr Leader in Diversity Education Award through ASA.

In what ways has Salem State demonstrated its commitment to your success, both academically and personally? Can you share any specific instances where the university has gone above and beyond to support you?

During the first two years of the pandemic, the university was an immense help in creating a safe space for students to attend college and make the most of their experiences. Offices like Student Involvement and the Center for Justice and Liberation hosted in-person or remote programming to ensure student life on campus.

As you near graduation, how do you feel Salem State has prepared you for your future career? What resources or opportunities have been particularly valuable in this regard?

Salem State has allowed me to take classes that I didn't expect to take. Coming to college, I had different expectations of my career. The requirements of general education classes helped me find my passion for other subjects. Exploring different subjects helped me find what I truly wanted.

What are your post-graduation plans, and how do you believe your time at Salem State has equipped you for success in pursuing them?

I will be attending Salem State for their master’s in education, Higher Education in Student Affairs program. I am excited to be a double Viking and give back to the University.

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