We had the opportunity to interview Jansen Penny, former Student Body President and member of FarmHouse. Take a look at what Jansen had to say during our Q&A!
Q: How has being in a fraternity changed your college experience? What has been one of your favorite experiences in Greek life?
Greek life has changed my entire trajectory throughout my collegiate career. Unlike many of my peers’ journey to K-State, I did not grow up “bleeding purple” nor had K-State on my radar. From family friends, I learned more about K-State, Greek life, and what opportunities there may be in Manhattan, KS. When it came to making a final decision, joining a fraternity was what sealed the deal, and I never looked back.
When I arrived at K-State, I could count on one hand how many people I knew within 250 miles. I was in a foreign city, state, and school—I worried about how, and if, I would be able to call K-State my home. Greek life was the catalyst to seizing all of my concerns. It provided me with an instant community, challenged me to be a better man, and continuously pushed me to explore new opportunities, on and off campus, and leverage my skills to make a change in my newfound community. If it wasn’t for my friends and connections I made through Greek life, I wouldn’t have sought membership in numerous campus organizations, found a new major that suited my interests and skills, and continued to grow in my faith.
My favorite experience in Greek life has been mentoring younger members—the same way that I was mentored as an underclassman. I have been able to leverage my campus leadership experiences, failures, and successes to encourage those younger than me to reach their full potential. It was only for my own mentors that I was able to achieve self-actualization during my time at K-State and Greek life has allowed me to return the invaluable favor.
Q: How have you gotten to grow in leadership through your time in FarmHouse?
As most other high schoolers, I was involved in many activities such as Student Council, FFA, and sports. I quickly realized that planning a school dance or pep rally was not synonymous to the challenges and opportunities that are present in Greek life. FarmHouse Fraternity allowed me to quickly obtain responsibility whether it be the maintenance of our chapter facility, coordinating recruitment efforts, and managing interpersonal conflict between members.
On-campus clubs and organizations provide many leadership opportunities, but it does not parallel the skills and competencies I gained through my roles, official and unofficial, in FarmHouse. The members of FarmHouse operate as their own governing body, rule enforcers, culture shifters, and community which grew my leadership abilities far beyond planning logistics for student organization event.
Q: What was your experience of being Student Body President? What did you learn though that role?
My role as Student Body President (2019-20) proved to be the most challenging, yet fulfilling, leadership role during my time at K-State. All of my enumerated responsibilities boiled down to one central purpose: representing the student body to administration, faculty, staff, and governing bodies on the local, state, and federal level. Myself alongside my Vice President, Chief of Staff, and 17 cabinet members worked to fulfill many different objectives that were imperative to the success and fulfillment of K-State students. Our goals ranged from securing additional funding for our on-campus food pantry, launching a bystander intervention training program in the community’s bar district, and identify tangible action steps to promote diversity, inclusion, and equity at K-State. From chairing and sitting on >20 committees, regularly meeting with the university President, Dean of Students, Provost, and other stakeholders, and empowering my team in their own pursuits, we were able to actualize numerous goals along the way.
What I learned most during my time as Student Body President had nothing to do with running an efficient meeting, time management, nor writing official statements. I achieved the most personal growth in conflict resolution, navigating nuanced objectives within key stakeholders, and finding ways to negotiate and compromise with students and administration. My team succeeded in many of our goals, but we also failed along our path; I have learned to see these failures as learning opportunities and springboards to bigger and better platforms.
Q: How was Greek life a place of support in your time as Student Body President?
I cannot imagine how different my experience as Student Body President would have been without the support of Greek life. Even before I was elected, I relied on my support system that I had built, both within and outside of my fraternity to obtain feedback on what students need, hear numerous personal stories on what K-State is succeeding at and what needs improved. My friends and peers I met within Greek life served as crucial voices to spur course correction in my own personal life and in my official role within Student Governing Association.