#GanjamStyle might have popped up on your Twitter feed last week, and no, luckily, it is not the comeback of the Gangnam Style dance, but rather the campaign tagline of UPUA presidential candidate Anand Ganjam. Ganjam is a junior and finance major from York, Pa., and is running alongside Emily McDonald in the upcoming election. As someone who is not well-versed in UPUA — like most voters, I presume — I was a bit nervous to meet with Ganjam and hoped that all the student-government lingo wouldn’t go right over my head.
That worry was quickly mitigated when Ganjam plainly explained his platform and his passion for student government. His involvement with UPUA began in 2011 after President TJ Bard’s freshmen convocation about finding a way to get involved at Penn State. Ganjam immediately saw his opportunity to make a difference. In true 21st century fashion, he found Bard on Facebook and asked him how to begin his involvement with UPUA. He has not missed a UPUA meeting since that conversation.
Ganjam began his service as one of two freshman representatives and as member of the facilities and programming committees. During his involvement with the facilities committee, he developed and designed CATA maps that were then distributed to all freshmen. His work with the programming committee included the development of that year’s student handbook (S-Book) to be distributed throughout the student body. Sophomore year, Ganjam lost his election for an at-large spot, but was then was appointed by President Courtney Lennartz to serve as the Director of Subsidized Test Preparation on the Executive Board. This came soon after UPUA formed a partnership with the Princeton Review to help offer subsidized graduate school test preparation courses. Ganjam dedicated that year to revamping the program and offering hundreds of discount opportunities for prospective graduate students.
Ganjam made his electoral comeback last year and was elected as the Smeal College of Business representative for UPUA’s 8th Assembly. One of his biggest accomplishments was leading the charge to create the student financial educational center, a one-on-one peer-to-peer financial education program where students can get information on budgeting, personal finances, and student loans. Ganjam secured space in the library, got funding, and created a training program. In the fall, he also co-chaired the mental health and wellness week roundtable, which worked with a number of organizations on campus on the important campus issue.
Through all of this experience, Ganjam has seen what it takes to stay active in all areas of the university community. When it came to picking his running mate, is was an easy choice.
“First off, we were both freshman representatives. I just feel like that experience of being in student government right when you get here is something we can both relate to,” said Ganjam on McDonald. “It’s been our passion since the day that we got here.”
McDonald is currently a sophomore who has also amassed an impressive UPUA resume during her past two years of involvement, including serving as a chair for the diversity committee.
“We were really able to relate to each other right away. We have different strengths and we really just compliment each other well,” said Ganjam. “I am really happy that I have the chance to run with her.”
So what are the changes that Ganjam and McDonald hope to implement if chosen to serve as president and vice president? Here is a look at part of their platform:
Academic Credit for Student Leaders
- Developing a curriculum for which student organization leaders can receive academic credit for each semester that they hold a position.
Lowering Course Material Costs
- Advocating for investments in Open Educational Resources, free online course materials.
- Developing a comprehensive report in conjunction with organizations around campus consisting of incidents, data, and recommendations to Administration
FACILITIES & TRANSPORTATION
Exterior Heat Lamps
- Implementation of outdoor heat lamps at bus stops around campus
Recreational Sports Restructuring
- Alleviating the burden of facility costs for Club Sports teams
- Establishing University Partnership with RidePost.com to increase ease of car-pooling
Student Parking Reform
- Making parking on campus for students easier on all accounts
FINANCES & TUITION
Student Activity Fee Board Restructuring
- Advocating for a separate fee board for University Park students
Tuition Advocacy and Transparency
- Collaborate with Senior Vice President of Business and Finance David Gray to disseminate tuition flow charts and reader friendly material regarding University finances
Town Hall with President-Elect Barron
- Hosting a Q&A session with our new University President in the fall semester
Student Selection for Student Trustee
- Ensuring student input throughout the selection process for a Student Trustee on the Board of Trustees
HOUSING & FOOD SERVICES
Guest Meal Discounts
- Implementing a set number of guest meal passes with the meal point system
Legal Consumption of Alcohol in Residence Halls
- Changing University policy so students of legal drinking age can consume alcohol in their residence halls
STUDENT OUTREACH & COLLABORATION
– Implementing a universal strategy for which all UPUA projects are based around Roundtables to ensure that all relevant student organizations and University departments are involved in student governance.
STUDENT HEALTH, SAFETY, & WELLNESS
Commission on Student Health and Safety
- Creation of a Commission involving all relevant student organizations and departments to ensure a year long discussion regarding Sexual Violence, Mental Health, and other student health and safety issues facing students.
Student Health Advisory Board
- Developing an advisory board consisting of students and University Health Services staff to ensure constant student input on health services at University Park
Transition from Webmail to Gmail
- Advocating for a University-wide transition from the PSU Webmail service to Gmail
When choosing a platform, Ganjam spoke of the importance of reflecting the desires of the student body, a population that he feels he can find the pulse of through his other activities on campus. Ganjam served as the 2013 president of the Penn State Finance society as well as an executive for Smeal student council. Ganjam was also a co-founder of the One-Heart campaign that fights against sexual abuse, which sponsors the blue-out football games each year, something that has grown increasingly important to our University. In addition to all of these incredible achievements, Ganjam also sits on several different advisory boards throughout campus, which makes him confident that every item on his platform is feasible.
Ganjam doesn’t want initiatives to end after just one awareness week. He spoke about how issues like mental health or sexual assault are not something that only happen for one week of the year, so the discussions surrounding these issues shouldn’t stop after one event. Holding various roundtables for hot-button issues is a key piece of how Ganjam feels he will make a lasting impression if elected president.
“We know that people in UPUA aren’t necessarily the experts on every issue,” Ganjam said. “There are student groups or departments on campus who are the experts on issues, so the idea is to bring those groups to the same table so that they can all have a stake in every initiative that we do.”
This type of round-table based governance is something that UPUA has been taking steps towards, bringing in more than 29 student groups for Sexual Violence Prevention and Awareness Month through a collaborative roundtable chaired by Ganjam.
“We have developed so many relationships with the Penn State community, both through UPUA and outside of UPUA. We are very close with so many student leaders,” Ganjam said. “We have built so many strong relationships and we hope to continue to do that both with administration and with students. That is the main reason that we want to run, we want to continue to develop those relationships and continue to help Penn State. Not by ourselves, but alongside the rest of Penn State.”
Election day this year is on April 2. You can find a profile on UPUA candidate Melissa McCleery here, and be sure to look for a profile on the third candidate, Meteen Doshi, in the coming days.