Kelly Vena: English, French, Greek and Beyond

You don’t know what TCNJ involvement looks like until you’ve met Kelly Vena. Kelly is a senior English major at TCNJ with minors in French and Communication Studies, and she lives in Clark, NJ. She’s been obsessed with reading since she first learned how to read as a kid, and she loves to write, especially poetry! Read below to find out about her involvement at TCNJ, specifically with the English Department and Greek life.

What originally drew you to TCNJ?

When I toured TCNJ during my junior year of high school, I knew that it was the college for me. I fell in love with the campus, the student body, and the overall atmosphere. I never forgot how at home I felt at TCNJ, and when I had to make a decision about where to attend college, I turned down a generous financial aid package from a different school to attend TCNJ. Although my parents were hesitant at first, they immediately saw how much I enjoyed TCNJ upon moving in and knew that I had made the right choice of college.


What are you involved in on campus?

I am very involved in a wide variety of on-campus activities. During my sophomore year, I was inducted into Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honor Society, and have attended its annual International Convention every spring since then. I was elected Treasurer for Sigma Tau Delta my junior year and currently serve as President. I have been a member of the Lion’s Eye, TCNJ’s literary magazine, since my sophomore year as well. This is my second consecutive school year serving as its Treasurer. Finally, I rushed Tri Sigma during the spring semester of sophomore year. Being involved in the Greek community has not only allowed me to meet new people but has also helped me take on leadership roles that I never would have seen myself taking prior to rushing. For example, I applied to be on the Panhellenic Association’s executive board - which oversees all of TCNJ’s sororities and acts as their governing body - for this school year and ended up obtaining the Social Programmer position, which coordinates events and runs the Panhellenic Association’s social media! Getting involved in both the Greek and non-Greek communities has allowed me to meet so many driven, passionate, and amazing people, and I’ve gained so many friends along the way! One of my favorite things about TCNJ is how easy it is to get involved in your own interests and hobbies on campus - there really is something for everybody!


How has your involvement shaped your experience at TCNJ? What has been your favorite part about being involved with The Lion's Eye? 

Getting so involved at TCNJ has helped me grow into a well-rounded individual. My extracurricular activities have become the highlight of my college experience, and I have gained so many invaluable skills, friends, and memories through my many organizations. I can say with confidence that I would not be where I am today without my extracurriculars and all of the amazing things they have brought me.  

The Lion’s Eye has been an especially enjoyable experience for me because it was one that I did not see coming. I had been asked to take the position as Treasurer for the 2017-18 school year, and after a bit of convincing, I decided to take the position. Through my position on the Lion’s Eye exec board, I became more involved with the club, its members, and of course, my fellow board members. We have worked hard together to compose interesting and amazing editions of The Lion’s Eye, and the experience has been incredibly rewarding. It’s so rare to find a club in which you have a direct impact, even as a regular member, on important and impactful content like one does in The Lion’s Eye. I have also met some of my closest friends through this process, which makes it all the better.


What are you looking forward to most about your last semester at TCNJ? 

I am looking forward to spending time with my friends and making even more memories, all the while leaving an impact on my campus community through my extracurricular activities. The fall semester taught me how to strike a balance between my classes, clubs, off-campus internship, and everything else. I’m looking forward to taking all that I learned in the fall about time management and applying it in the upcoming semester in order to be as successful as possible in all I do.

What has been the biggest lesson you've learned in college?

I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned throughout college is (and I know this will sound super cliché) to trust and remain true to yourself, because you never know where it will lead you. One of my goals freshman year was to get more involved in my poetry and creative writing in general; rather than going to other Welcome Week events with the rest of my freshman floor one night, I decided to go by myself to ink’s coffeehouse and share my poetry aloud for the first time. Since then, I’ve been published twice (thanks to The Lion’s Eye!), and have become very involved in TCNJ’s English Department. I attribute the success I have achieved over my three and a half years at TCNJ - especially that involving my creative endeavors - to that decision I made during Welcome Week. I had mixed feelings attending an event by myself at the time, but when I look back at the event, I am so glad I did because that one decision has given me so much throughout my time at TCNJ.


What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation, I plan on moving back home (a bittersweet feeling) and pursing a career in marketing! I don’t have anything lined up just yet, but I’ve been applying to jobs and have a few interviews I have to do, so fingers crossed!


If you could give incoming freshmen one piece of advice, what would it be?

I would advise incoming freshmen to find their interests and find their people. Both are easier said than done, I know, but it is doable! I think high school teaches us exactly what kinds of friends we don’t want to have, so using that as a guide helps lead us to who exactly we are supposed to be with. As for your interests - you never know where they can take you! Unapologetically pursue your passion with one (or a few!) of the many clubs at TCNJ, and if there isn’t a club with your interest, then go ahead and start it! I guarantee that there are others on campus who have the same or similar interest as you, and starting or joining a club is another great way to meet lifelong friends. Don’t be afraid to use your comfort zone, like your interests, to step outside of your comfort zone! That, to me, is what college is all about.


Is there anything else you'd like to add? 

Although I heavily endorse and emphasize getting involved on campus, don’t neglect your studies either! That is the reason we are at college, so be sure to put your courses first! It seems overwhelming at first to find a balance for everything, but as you get used to college life, it will get easier!