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Generations of Impact Through Student Organizations, Part One

Ella Springer and her parents Angela (Willison) and David Springer
Ella Springer and her parents Angela (Willison) and David Springer posing for a holiday photo.

From Walkmans to TikTokers and the first moon landing to private citizens in space, the events and trends that define generations change, but there is one constant on Purdue University’s campus – a love for the university handed down from generation to generation, again and again.

Parents dress their children in the old gold and black and fly Purdue flags on game day, gather with lifelong friends and mentors to reminisce on defining memories, take trips to campus to visit their favorite haunts and more. Experiences like these characterize the childhood connections many current students have to Purdue.

In this two-part series, we introduce you to two Boilermakers who have followed in their parents’ footsteps while finding their own place on campus.

Ella Springer

Ella Springer was raised a Boilermaker.Photo of Ella Springer

Ella’s parents, Angela (Willison) and David, were heavily involved in activities outside the classroom during their time at Purdue during the late 1980s. Each served as a resident assistant, while David was elected president of Wiley Hall’s Excalibur Club. The two didn’t meet until they returned to Purdue after their days as undergraduates were over however, when Angela served as an assistant manager in Earhart Hall and David was pursuing an airframe and powerplant license.

As a result of her parents’ Purdue connections, Ella grew up hearing about the university and coming back to campus for basketball games.

“I definitely talk to my parents about a lot of things and they give lots of perspective from when they were here,” Ella says.

Now a rising junior, Ella serves as president of Purdue Student Union Board (PSUB) – an organization Angela was a member of. PSUB serves the campus community by offering a variety of enriching programs and services to entertain students and serves as the voice of Purdue students in the cooperative management of the Purdue Memorial Union.

Though the structure of the organization has changed since Angela’s days on campus, the core of PSUB’s mission to serve the Purdue community has remained the same. Ella says her interest in the organization was rooted in the organization’s impact on the community and previous service opportunities she enjoyed in her extracurricular pursuits during high school.

“I thought it was such a cool organization that could impact so many students,” Ella says. “A lot of organizations really put most of their focus on their own members. The whole point of PSUB is to serve the greater part of the student body and that’s what drew me to it.”

During her first year as a member of PSUB, Ella was placed on the spirit and traditions committee, which plans annual events such as Holidays at the Union and Homecoming festivities. She also served as an executive project leader for morale and retention, where she worked with a vice president to plan socials and implement a points system to entice PSUB’s approximately 100 members to volunteer and attend events. These experiences inspired Ella to apply for a higher leadership position.

PSUB leadership is made up of 10 members – a president, three vice presidents and six directors. Ella’s appointment came as a surprise as she had only applied for a vice president position. PSUB advisors came to her residence hall at 11 p.m. to deliver the news in person.

“I could not sleep for the rest of the night,” Ella says. “I kept thinking I did not expect to be in this position and I did not really plan on doing this. I was honestly shocked and intimidated, but overall I was very excited.”

As president, Ella serves as the general leader of the organization, represents PSUB on external boards, such as the Student Life Advisory Board, works with PSUB alumni, leads weekly and monthly meetings with the board of directors and tries to interact with members as much as she can. One of Ella’s current collaborative projects is working with the university to allocate space to student organizations in a new, dedicated space in Stewart Center. Through these various roles, Ella says she has connected with student, faculty and staff leaders and has enjoyed discovering how interconnected leaders are at the university.

“I get to know everyone in this little realm, which I did not expect,” Ella says.Anna Springer posing with her friends for a holiday photo.

Ella says these interactions have allowed her to gain important experience working with others.

“I’m really learning how to work with a team,” Ella says. “I’m a bit of an introvert and like working by myself sometimes, but I can’t do that when I’m helping run an organization that’s putting on about 150 events every school year. I enjoy the team aspect, which I didn’t expect I would. I really try to delegate things to people, make sure we have all the work we need to do covered and make sure nobody is getting overworked.”

While being an introvert and leading an organization may seem to be at odds with each other, Ella says she has found that she can balance her own needs with those of the organization quite well.

“I like sitting down and getting my work done, but it’s really fun when someone comes into the office and I can sit down and talk to them,” Ella says.

“We have people from all walks of life, all majors and from all over the world, so it’s really fun getting to know them all. I’ve found it’s fun to balance trying to work by myself and get stuff done, but also form these relationships.”

After her appointment as president ends in December 2022, Ella will be taking the spring 2023 semester off from studies to complete an internship with ORBA, an accounting firm in Chicago – though she says she will remain an active member of PSUB. Before graduating, she also hopes to become a resident assistant. She plans to eventually pursue a career in public accounting with a focus on auditing.

In the meantime, she says she will draw on the significant mentorship she has received from PSUB advisors Chelsea Schwab, Riley Pemberton and McKenna Huffard and lessons learned from her leadership experiences as she pursues new opportunities.

“When I interview for internships, I always talk about PSUB,” Springer says.

“A lot of what I’ve learned are people skills that I haven’t gotten from other jobs. Even though I’m going into more of a technical field, I’m going to be working with people and I’m going to have to learn from the experiences of PSUB. Working with my directors in an office space is similar to what I’m going to be doing in a couple years when I graduate.”

Stay tuned for our next 'Generations of Impact Through Student Organizations', in this two-part series!