On April 14th, Ben Clark was elected president of the Council of Commonwealth Student Governments (@CCSG_Staff), the governing body for — you guessed it — the various commonwealth campuses. I had the opportunity to sit down with President Clark and to ask him a few question about what he does.
Onward State: Tell us a little about yourself — what you’re studying, how you got to Penn State, your involvement in other student organizations, etc.
Ben Clark: I’m an junior accounting major from Mifflintown, PA. I started at the Altoona campus and during my two years there, I served as the treasurer and vice president of the Student Government Association (SGA). I was also a Lion Ambassador at Altoona.
I see myself as a goal-oriented person that looks out for the betterment of others before that of myself.
OS: What is the Council of Commonwealth Student Governments (CCSG)?
BC: It’s an organization that advocates for the 19 commonwealth campuses with a central staff located at University Park. It works with administration, faculty, and staff to better the commonwealth campuses and to ensure that their voices are heard.
OS: Tell us a little about your prior involvement with the CCSG.
BC: At Altoona, I was the Vice President of SGA and a voting member of the CCSG. This past year, I was the Governmental Affairs Director. In that role, I helped plan Capital Day, where we had more than 350 students in attendance, the majority of which came from the commonwealth campuses. In addition, “Visit Your Legislator” Day was created jointly between myself and my associate, Kelsey Kman.
OS: How does the CCSG relate to the average student here at University Park?
BC: I think that it relates to them in the fact that a lot of the things we do correlate to the university as a whole. We pass legislation that affects everything from the new eLion to tuition. Both Capital Day and “Visit Your Legislative” Day were efforts to influence state appropriations, which directly affect tuition.
We don’t directly represent University Park students, but a lot of the ideas that we have generated from the campuses affect all Penn State students. In addition, we have worked closely over the last year with the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) and we are going to continue that partnerships in projects where our responsibilities overlap.
OS: What should Penn State students–here and across the commonwealth–expect moving forward?
BC: I think the biggest thing coming out of our administration is transparency and communication. This past year, we asked the administration to emphasize these two things and it is not fair of us to ask the administration to be more transparent and open if we do not do the same.
OS: What specific projects will the CCSG begin working on?
BC: One project that is going to be big is the on-campus housing deadlines, where, right now, the deadlines are not correlating with the same deadlines for off-campus housing. A lot of the students that want on-campus housing have to wait until December to find out if they have been offered a housing contract and in case they don’t receive one, it is difficult if not impossible to find off-campus housing, downtown or elsewhere.
OS: Tell us a little more about the Six Points for Change and the CCSG’s role in the coming year.
BC: We’re going to continue to work with UPUA and the Graduate Student Association (GSA) on the Six Points for Change. Two of the immediate goals that CCSG is focusing on this year are the creation of the all-university cabinet and the continuation of the town hall forums.
OS: What changes do you want to see made within the CCSG?
BC: One of the changes we’re looking to incorporate is decreasing the size of the central staff to improve communication and create a more close-knit, “family-oriented” organization. Building off of that, we feel that having that type of organization will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the CCSG as a whole.
OS: Bear with me, but this question is a must for any Onward State interview: If you could be a dinosaur, what kind of dinosaur would you be and why?
BC: I would be a T-Rex, it has been my favorite dinosaur ever since I was a kid.
OS: How can a student get in contact with the CCSG; or, how can students get involved with the CCSG?
BC: We have a “Roar Here” box on our website if a student wants to voice a concern to the CCSG. To get involved in the CCSG, a student must have attended a commonwealth campus (meaning anywhere other than University Park) in order to be on the central staff. The applications will be going by Friday, April 27th.