Snapshot: Steve 'Spud' Marshall
Before Steve “Spud” Marshall and his friends went to college they made a promise to each other that whatever they did they would make a difference in the world and hold each other to that. Marshall, a 2008 Penn State graduate, kept his word.
Two years ago, he and three of his friends had decided that they wanted to create an organization that entirely served the community. They wanted to make State College a better place, but in an untraditional way. That is how the New Leaf Initiative began.
“We wanted to know what challenges and frustrations people had in State College and around the world and ask, ‘What can we do to solve them?’ ” Marshall says.
The New Leaf Initiative originally started in August 2010, and ever since then it has evolved into a large nonprofit organization that is primarily student driven — they come up with ideas and plan many of New Leaf’s projects.
“The scope of what we cover is nonexistent,” Marshall says. “We don’t care what people are passionate about as long as it has some social good.”
In order to achieve the social good it is essential that the students are driven and capable of leading, but it also is important that there is nonstudent support as well.
Some of New Leaf’s projects have allowed Marshall and his allies to travel to Haiti where they utilized recycled bags that had been used to distribute food or aid. They filled the bags with dirt or rubble and built strong hurricane-resistant and earthquake-resistant structures with low cost and minimal environmental impact.
Closer to home, Marshall and his allies are working on a project called the co.space. This developed after Marshall reached out to alumni, State College residents, and elders and realized that they had no real interactions with the student community. The co.space will be a place where those experienced changemakers can talk to students and share their knowledge and skills.
Marshall and some of the student interns have been all over the world to spread the idea of the Co.Space. The big vision is to have a co.space in every country, but for now they plan just to focus on the State College co.space and then expand.
“We want to make Penn State and State College the flagship model of what it looks like to really engage with students and have the community work together,” he says. “We want to say Here is what the Penn State community actually cares about.”
Starting the New Leaf Initiative and pitching the co.space has allowed Marshall to not only help with social innovation but also to travel, which is something he really enjoys. He has traveled to countries such as South Africa, Sweden, and Denmark, and has been all over the United States for conferences.
He has an expansion plan for the co.space, expecting it to take off in Philadelphia next, hoping to bridge the Philadelphia community with local universities.
“It has been getting a lot of attention, which is awesome but also terrifying,” he says. “We have a big vision and it’s not about having people write a check for what we do. It’s having the community support to help provide that first step to help create change in the world.”
Steve “Spud” Marshall
Favorite place to travel: “Anywhere new! I’m fortunate that my job provides many opportunities to travel and share the work we are doing with the co.space.”
Favorite place in State College: “In the few hours of the week that I’m not scheming down in the New Leaf office or sleeping, I love finding random parks outside to throw a Frisbee, kick around a soccer ball, or play volleyball.”
How did you get your nickname Spud?: “My mom realized that I looked like a baby potato in her baby books. Ever since then, the name Spud has stuck — and I’ve got no complaints.”
For more information on New Leaf initiative, visit newleafinitiative.org.