In her ninth and final semester at Penn State, Kelsey Bell opened an email she spent the past four years hoping she might receive.
Bell — triple majoring in advertising/public relations, history, and international politics — was selected to serve as the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications student marshal for the University’s fall 2020 virtual commencement ceremony Dec. 19.
“I’ve wanted to be the student marshal, honestly, since freshman year,” Bell said. “Sometimes you doubt yourself and wonder, ‘Do I really have a path? Did I really take advantage of things?’ Being picked [as] student marshal really reaffirmed that I took advantage of all the opportunities I had.”
In the almost four-and-a-half years Bell spent studying at Penn State, the Schreyer Honors Scholar and Paterno Fellow has let her goal of professionally pursuing international humanitarian work drive her toward success in and out of the classroom.
On top of three undergraduate degrees, Bell is also set to earn a master’s degree in international affairs (with a concentration in environmental resources and international conflict, from the School of International Affairs), as well as a minor in Latin American studies from the College of the Liberal Arts.
In her final semester at Penn State, Bell has spent time working alongside Yael Warshel — an associate professor in the Bellisario College whom she selected as her faculty representative for commencement — as a research assistant with Children, Media and Conflict Zones Lab in the Bellisario College.
Through this research, Bell said Warshel helped her see how she can connect her skill sets in media and international affairs, respectively, beyond Penn State.
“[Warshel] represents what I want to do in a career, but she also represents that I can do more than just ad/PR,” Bell said. “The Bellisario College is very big on interactions between faculty and students, but you’re not limited to just your department. I think that’s one of the reasons why I picked her.”
Over the past four years, Bell also served as a Media Fellow at the Washington Media Scholars Foundation; was inducted into Penn State’s Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Sigma Alpha Honors Societies chapters; produced web content for VALLEY Magazine; served as an account associate for Happy Valley Communications and more. She has also earned Dean’s List status for all eight semesters she has completed.
Bell said while the coronavirus pandemic has added difficulty to her post-graduate job search, she has continued applying to professional opportunities as much as she can.
“I am such a planner — it’s the only reason I’ve been able to get things done in my college career that I have. So, not being able to plan is the hardest thing for me,” Bell said. “Hopefully I’ll have a career somewhere in D.C., if not, somewhere else in the country.”
In addition to “all of [her] professors,” Bell said she is most thankful for her parents as she looks forward to commencement.
As a daughter from a “Penn State family,” the Lebanon, Pennsylvania, native said sharing this accomplishment with her alumnus father and mother, who works in administration for Penn State Harrisburg, has made being selected as a student marshal especially meaningful.
“Every success I’ve had as a student at Penn State, I’ve been able to share with my family,” Bell said. “It’s something they understand and I don’t necessarily have to explain that much to them. It’s obviously a bonding point, but it’s also something my family is really proud of.”