Elaine Penn

In every culture throughout history, people have used stories and music to teach important lessons. Elaine Penn incorporates these timeless tools along with meaningful discussion and interactive exercises to connect with students emotionally and intellectually.

With Elaine’s experiential approach, students learn on a deep level, and are able to apply the lessons they’ve learned in their everyday lives. By sharing an inspiring blend of stories, music, and learning, she takes students on a journey that changes how they think, feel, and act. With a background as a higher education administrator and as a collegiate athlete and coach, Elaine’s programs on leadership, diversity, stress management, and positivity are an excellent fit for all types of college audiences.

“Elaine Penn was exactly what we were looking for…fun, engaging, insightful and able to connect with our students. She had 2500 incoming freshmen and transfers laughing, singing, and thinking critically about what their college experience could be.”

– Aaron Bachenheimer, Assistant Director of Organizational Leadership, Appalachian State University

“Energetic, informative and animated were adjective frequently used to describe Elaine’s presentation. One student stated ‘I felt empowered and excited to start leading a more healthy lifestyle’. Thanks Elaine you did a fantastic job.”

– Thomas Hagan, Assistant Dean for First Year Programs, Elizabethtown College

“Elaine went above and beyond our expectations as a speaker on leadership and diversity. She captured everyone’s full attention with her relevant and interactive presentation. Her enthusiasm was contagious and left everyone feeling intrigued, wanting to learn more. We definitely would welcome her back; she was inspiring!”

– John Hill, Shenandoah University

The Heart of Leadership

Student leaders can help shape the lives of others on campus. Imagine how profound this impact could be if they consciously use their influence through leadership principles like: knowing yourself and using your strengths to the fullest, developing an inspiring vision and communicating it to others, creating meaningful connections and empowering people, understanding the power of your words, and making a positive difference everyday.

If you are looking for a message that focuses on “heart-based, “people-centered” leadership, Elaine Penn will be perfect for your next event. In a world where text messages have replaced face-to-face conversations, and leadership has been boiled down to successful habits, Elaine will hearten your student leaders with a message that speaks to the core values of leadership. Incorporating discussion, stories, and music, Elaine inspires your to students to inspire others.

Learning Outcomes

As a result of attending this program, students will learn to:

  • Know who they are as individuals, and how to use their strengths to enhance their impact as leaders
  • Engage and inspire others
  • Deepen and accelerate the connection process
  • Lead with their vision and values, ultimately committing to service and making a difference
  • Use purposeful communication to have a more engaging presence

One Student, Many Stories

How many times have we walked past someone on the street, only to form an assumption about them? Our assumptions could come from the way they are dressed, how they speak, whose hand they are holding, if they are experiencing homelessness, or what religious book they are reading. The truth is, when we buy into an assumption (or single story) about anyone, we foster stereotypes and fear.

Join Elaine as she interweaves stories from her life and the lives of others to examine how stereotypes diminish a person’s dignity, create divisions, and leads to prejudice and intolerance. Elaine also invites students to share their own experiences with diversity in areas like: race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, LGBT and gender.

Incorporating powerful life lessons and original music, Elaine encourages students to identify and eliminate personal stereotypes, challenge others regarding stereotypical comments, stand up to any kind of prejudice, tell positive stories that transcend stereotypes, and share the many stories from their lives that have shaped who they are.

When we connect with each other and share our stories, we discover we have more in common than we ever knew. This program is a perfect keynote for any group placing value on building meaningful relationships in their campus community.

Learning Outcomes

As a result of attending this program, students will learn to:

  • Understand how buying into an assumption or (single story) about any individual or group of people creates stereotypes and fear, which diminish a person’s dignity, creates divisions in our relationships, and leads to prejudice

  • Develop an appreciation and sensitivity to diversity of all kinds

  • Gain a greater awareness about the diversity issues on campus and in society

  • Understand how to use a 5-step process to create positive change

  • Connect with others by sharing personal stories and finding common ground

Happiness: The New Definition of Success

The field of “Positive Psychology” shows that when the brain is in a positive state, stress is reduced, while energy, performance, creativity, intelligence and happiness are greatly increased. So how do we help students maintain a positive mindset when academic pressures are real, extracurricular obligations pile up, and stress is a top health issue on college campuses?

Elaine Penn is a former college athlete and volleyball coach, and has spent her adult life dedicated to wellness. In this experiential program, Elaine uses stories, science and music to teach students how to slow down your brain and open your heart to be more positive, and to experience greater health, happiness and success. She explores the science behind positive self-talk and why perception becomes your reality. Finally, students will see how habits like gratitude, focusing on what’s good in life, random acts of kindness, meditation, and exercise help them find their zone.

Elaine can be joined by nationally acclaimed sound healer and singer-songwriter, Nancy Pitkin. Sound has been used for thousands of years as a healing technique. Combining original piano compositions with instruments like the Tibetan bowl, Native American Flute, drum, Pan flute, bells, and chimes, Nancy takes you through a sound meditation towards the end of the program that balances and relaxes your body, mind, and spirit. She plays light piano music in the background during the program and performs several original songs with Elaine. Science reveals that the brain is primed to respond to music. Music taps into our emotions. It is relaxing, inspiring and enhances learning.

Learning Outcomes

As a result of attending this program, students will learn:

  • Understand the how positivity and sound affect health, happiness and success.
  • Understand that when the brain is in a positive state, stress is reduced, while energy, performance, creativity, intelligence, focus and happiness are increased (by 31%).

  • Learn the science behind self-talk and the impact of words.

  • Be introduced to positivity and sound techniques that retrain the brain and open the heart in a short amount of time to be a positive state.

Customized Student Leadership Retreats

Campus professionals are extremely busy! They wear many hats and juggle many balls. It often helps for an outside facilitator to organize student leadership retreats.

Elaine is a great choice to help you host a powerful and impactful retreat to create real change in your organization! Prior to a retreat, Elaine facilitates an intake with you, which involves asking questions and discovering the outcomes you want and need. In other words, what would you want the participants to experience, learn, feel, do, and take away from the retreat?

Using that information, she creates a customized retreat for your group. Typically, the focus is on one of the following topics: Leadership, Communication, Team-building, Diversity, Visioning and Action. Elaine’s retreats are perfect for rejuvenating and reconnecting your students and staff. The retreats are from a half day to three days in length.

Staff Programs

Elaine has extensive experience in consulting as well as developing workshops and retreats for professional staff on: strategic visioning, communication, internal relationships, leadership/engagement, positivity in the workplace and work/life balance. She leads group coaching sessions to help clarify goals, overcome obstacles, and take clear action.

Elaine’s Bio

Elaine Penn, M.Ed. is a motivational speaker, executive coach, workplace consultant and singer-songwriter who inspires people to reach their highest potential. She works with universities, businesses, government agencies, and individuals around the world. Prior to coaching, Elaine worked in higher education as a Division I Volleyball Coach, Director of Campus Recreation, and Executive Producer of five award winning educational documentaries. In her keynotes, Elaine uses stories, discussion, music and audience interaction to help students dream of what is possible and unleash their best selves.

Elaine received her bachelor’s degree from Greensboro College and her master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. While at Greensboro, she received numerous athletic honors, including All American in Basketball and All-Conference in Volleyball. In recognition of her achievements in basketball, her jersey was retired. She was inducted into the Greensboro College Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.

Growing up in a musical family, Elaine has been singing professionally for most of her life. Her CD of original music is called: Love Is The Way.

Elaine has created and led interactive retreats for students and staff for more than 20 years.


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