Kinesiology major creates community, makes impact through campus involvement

Written by Lisa R. Baldi, Director of Strategic Communications at Penn State Berks.

Samantha Hagenbush has built quite the resume during her time at Penn State Berks. She’s been a mental health advocate, a three-sport student-athlete, and a consistent leader of campus clubs and organizations. On Saturday, May 4, she’ll don a new hat — college graduate — when she earns her baccalaureate degree in kinesiology with a minor in psychological sciences.

Hagenbush, a Rockaway, New Jersey native, was recruited to play basketball for Penn State Berks, which is what originally drew her to visit campus. Despite the visit happening over Thanksgiving break in 2019, women’s basketball coach Kristin Hawley and a Lion Ambassador sought to make the visit worthwhile.

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“The Lion Ambassador did not have to come back to campus during Thanksgiving break, but she did,” Hagenbush shared. “I got to watch her practice, and then she told me about the kinesiology program and the broad variety of careers you could do with a kinesiology degree. Once I figured out that I could study kinesiology and play basketball, I was sold.”

Aside from basketball, Hagenbush also participated in the cross-country and tennis teams. She also served as the United East Conference co-chair for the Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC).

Outside of sports, her involvement included serving as president of the kinesiology club and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Penn State Berks chapter. She was a THON 2024 dancer and served as donor and alumni relations co-executive for Berks Benefitting THON. In addition, she was a Lion Ambassador executive board member, a dance team member, a first-year mentor and a Welcome Weekend leader.

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And on top of all that, Hagenbush has been a mental health advocate for three organizations: Morgan’s Message, Robbie’s Hope, and Selena Gomez’s Rare Beauty Impact Fund.

Particularly with the Rare Beauty Impact Fund, she and the other 18 cohort members — composed of college students across the country — were trained in mental health first aid, worked with mental health community partners, and learned best practices for self-advocacy and advocating for others.

Her own mental health journey inspired her involvement in mental health organizations both on and off campus.

“Going through my personal struggles with mental health — and I still am to this day — advocating for others made me realize I want to advocate for myself, too,” Hagenbush said.

Hagenbush has carried what she’s learned about mental health into the classroom, as well. In addition to an internship with Alvernia University’s athletic trainers, she’s been involved with undergraduate research titled “How do Penn State Berks student-athletes compare to NCAA norms in health and wellness?” with Andrew Friesen, associate professor of kinesiology. She’ll present her research at the college’s Science Division Colloquium on Friday, April 19.

“I’d like to integrate mental health advocacy into my future career of athletic training by creating a program to develop a rapport with student-athletes to help them feel comfortable opening up about mental health issues,” stated Hagenbush. “Student-athletes deserve to have a safe space to talk about their concerns, and often, their athletic trainer is that first line.”

When asked what she’ll miss the most about Penn State Berks, Hagenbush said it will be the people she’s met.

“Every single person that I’ve met on this campus has played a role in my journey here — that sense of community and belonging was built here,” she said. “I worked hard to create my own community, and I feel like that community is why I wanted to give back in all the roles that I’ve had.”

Along with her coaches and professors, Hagenbush credits Autumn Fritz, licensed social worker in the Office of Counseling Services, for her success on campus: “She’s the reason I’m still at Berks. She really has impacted me positively and has helped me become the person I am today.”

Following commencement, Hagenbush will attend Montclair State University to earn her master’s degree in athletic training. As her time at Penn State Berks ends, her advice to current and future students is this: “Don’t be afraid to branch out and do your own thing. A lot of opportunities came up for me that way.”

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Berks Weekly
Berks Weekly
Berks Weekly is an independent and locally owned digital newspaper covering the City of Reading and Berks County. Subscribe today: berksweekly.com/subscribe
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