George Penniman

George Penniman, pictured in front of his home.
Photo by Submitted Photo

One of Mississippi State’s newest graduates, George Penniman said his time on campus has been special as he met many friends, found his passion for psychology, joined the swim club and helped other students with their own studies.

The Baton Rouge, Louisiana, native considered only a few colleges, but Mississippi State’s hospitality and picturesque campus appealed to him, and he wanted to try life away from home. It was his freshman year that proved he made the right choice by becoming an MSU Bulldog.

Penniman recalls fun times in his residence hall from the beginning, and when he took Becky Armstrong’s general psychology class during his first semester, he found a strong connection with the subject matter and “genuinely enjoyed everything about it.” This introductory course helped lead him to change his major to psychology and get a job as a Supplemental Instruction leader, a competitive position only awarded to top students who earned an A in the course, among other criteria. The SI program is coordinated by the Learning Center, and Penniman said both Chelsey Vincent, SI coordinator, and Armstrong have been important mentors to him throughout college.

As an SI leader, Penniman continued to attend Armstrong’s general psychology class every semester, taking notes and leading study sessions to help other students learn the material as his own mastery of the concepts also sharpened. He has been a part of this course for his entire time at MSU, continuing to lead sessions over WebEx since the COVID-19 pandemic pushed all learning to an online format in March.

Penniman emphasized that Supplemental Instruction is one of the best resources on campus because it’s free, completely optional and voluntary, and offered multiple times a week to help students with difficult classes.

“The only thing SI leaders want to do is help. They teach the course material, study skills and other tips to help students be successful,” Penniman said. “The other students attending the sessions also want to learn, so it’s a good group, and it can be more comfortable to ask questions in an SI session rather than in a large class.”

Penniman admits to bittersweet feelings as a new graduate after an abrupt end to his time on campus after Spring Break. “It’s been hard not to say goodbye,” he said. “I’ve had some Zoom meetings with friends, but it’s not the same.” He said that it’s the people he’s gotten to know at State that he’ll miss most.

“I miss just riding my bike to campus and seeing everybody around—those who say ‘hi’ to me, and I say ‘hi’ to them,” he said.

Now, Penniman is spending time with his parents, who relocated to Savannah, Georgia, along with his brother and sister. He said the family celebrated his online graduation May 1 with a special meal.

In reflecting on the pandemic’s impact on his last semester, Penniman said the university did an admirable job dealing with a difficult situation.

“State did a really good job and has been very accommodating,” he said. “I think everybody really did the best they could do.”

Penniman’s immediate plans are uncertain, but the passion sparked at MSU for psychology and his love for helping students is only just beginning. He said he will continue his studies with plans to earn a Ph.D. and launch a teaching career in the future.