Perhaps more than any other Greenbush staff member, Team-Building and Leadership Coordinator Amie Beggs has grown up with Greenbush.
When she was six years old, she and her family became regular attendees of monthly observatory nights at the PSU-Greenbush Astrophysical Observatory.
"The first time, I was so little I didn't stay for the lecture session; Josh (Cochran, current observatory manager and then graduate assistant to PSU professor Dr. David Koehn) put me in the back room and had me watch the Magic School Bus episode about planets so I'd be entertained," Beggs said. "But it wasn’t long after that that I started sitting through the lecture as well."
Observatory nights were just the beginning of Beggs' experience with Greenbush. As a graduate of USD 256 Marmaton Valley, Beggs recalls visits from Harold the Giraffe and the Life Education Center trailer, as well as her personal favorite, the NASA Mobile Space Station.
"Greenbush came to my school, but what I really remember and what got under my skin was going to summer camps," Beggs said. "So I went through summer camps up until my eighth grade year and spent that entire summer complaining to anyone who would listen that there were no high school camps."
Beggs was so persistent in her requests for more camp experiences that eventually Greenbush staff members told her to wait a few years and apply for a job. At age 19, she became an official member of the Greenbush team for the first time, working as a summer camp counselor.
Despite a different approach and background than many camp staff (Beggs was a psychology major with a math minor, whereas most of her fellow counselors were elementary education or recreation majors), Beggs excelled at juggling the many responsibilities that come with ensuring a safe, fun, and educational experience for learners of varying ages.
"Amie is a dedicated worker, and she brings a very intelligent perspective and an open mind," said Michael McCambridge, Director of Student Enrichment. "She’s very good at problem solving. And that’s any problem—you can bring her in and say, 'Hey, I’m looking at this issue,' and she can help you step through a variety of solutions."
Before long, Beggs had so impressed her supervisors that she was given the opportunity to plan spring break camps all on her own. She soon stepped up to coordinate summer camps as well.
Beggs said going from camper to camp manager was an eye-opening experience.
"In my mind, Greenbush was the place where the experts worked," Beggs said. "Going out to the ropes course, these people could work 30 feet in the air. What I realize now is that these are really hard-working people who do their best. Now that I’m one of those people who climbs up that 30-foot pole, I realize it’s just a matter of practice and dedication. And what really makes an expert anyway? Someone who’s practiced and dedicated."
While leading groups on team-building excursions on the high and low ropes courses, Beggs discovered a love for helping people work through problems and improve their communication—something that informed her decision to pursue human resources development as the emphasis area for her degree.
"The first class that set me on my path was industrial and organizational psychology," Beggs said. "It was about how to help people work together and be more productive. I want to do that as a job—I want to help people not hate their job! But the more I worked on the ropes course, the more I realized that it is that in practice."
In her current role as Team-Building and Leadership Coordinator, Beggs works with student groups, corporate groups, sports teams, and others to help them break down barriers to communication and increase trust in one another. She also heads up the Student Leadership Series, a set of character development initiatives aimed at helping students at various age levels build leadership skills and put them to use through community service projects and other activities.
McCambridge said he's hopeful that the Student Leadership Series will have a similar impact on the next generation of students as observatory nights and summer camps had on Beggs as a young girl.
"I truly believe that some of the kids Amie is working with now in the Student Leadership Series are going to be tomorrow's leaders in their schools, in their communities, and maybe even here at Greenbush," McCambridge said.