In case you haven’t been paying attention to student government news over the last month or so, Anand Ganjam was recently elected as UPUA’s latest president to lead the Ninth Assembly.
I had a chance to catch up with the latest undergraduate student body president to discuss Penn State political television shows, ice cream, his favorite United States president, and the Ganjam-McDonald administration.
Onward State: How did you first get involved in UPUA?
Anand Ganjam: I originally got involved in UPUA because I remembered TJ Bard speaking at freshman convocation about the differences he made as president and I thought that was an interesting story. I knew I wanted to do something on a bigger picture at Penn State and make an impact. That’s what I wanted to do and once I did that, I Facebook messaged him and got involved right away. I was a freshman representative that year. I was fortunate enough to be selected and that’s how I started out in UPUA.
OS: What is Anand Ganjam like outside of a professional setting?
AG: That’s actually a really good question. I feel like I’m just a regular student trying to make it through school and study. I like hanging out with my friends and I haven’t really picked up too many hobbies since coming here since I just got involved in everything. I’m just the average student, trying to get good grades, get a good job. I like to go out and have a good time but I haven’t had too much time to do that lately.
OS: Were you involved in student government in high school at all?
AG: Nope. It’s interesting, I was never involved in student government. Maybe in sixth grade or something, but I didn’t have any substantial leadership roles in high school at all. So coming to Penn State and getting involved in UPUA has been a really different “me” than in high school.
OS: When did you decide that you wanted to be UPUA president?
AG: I knew I wanted to run coming into this year. I didn’t really think about it much until the Student Financial Education Center came together and I started getting attention for that. Early on in the fall, I knew I wanted to pursue something. I didn’t know if it would be president, vice president, or speaker. For a long time, I thought the speaker position suited me best. Eventually, I realized that its so similar to what I was doing as Student Life chair and I wanted to do something different.
OS: Which of your platform initiatives is most important to you and why?
AG: To me, I guess the biggest platform initiative is getting student input on different places like the strategic plan, the gen-ed engaged scholarship, and so on. This year is such a critical and pivotal year and we really need to capitalize on everything UPUA has done this past year to earn the student input. That’s where we could really drive the future of the university.
OS: What is the one thing that your constituency should know about you?
AG: I feel like I’m one of the most approachable people you’ll meet. If you somehow get my number and text me and tell me that you’re a constituent, and say that you want to meet with me, I’d be more than happy to do that with anybody.
OS: What U.S. President are you most comparable to and why?
AG: My favorite and also the one that most symbolizes what I do is Dwight Eisenhower. He was a financial aficionado. He balanced the budget three times and was very good with communications. He was also very passionate about Penn State. His brother, Milton Eisenhower, was simultaneously president of Penn State while Dwight was the United States president. That’s sort of how Penn State started coming into the national spotlight when Dwight starting visiting his brother here and the entire media would follow. Between that, his negotiation skills, and balancing the budget I think its similar to what’s going on with Penn State right now.
OS: If you had a choose a favorite political television show, which would you choose?
AG: House of Cards, for sure. I’m only six episodes in and Vice President McDonald already gave a ton of stuff away to me during the campaign season, but I really love Frank Underwood and it just really makes politics interesting. A lot of these shows are just kind of dull and dreary but it does a great job being dramatic.
OS: What is your favorite Creamery ice cream flavor?
AG: I’m a huge fan of whatever the chocolate one is. I do love Peachy Paterno, though. That was the first one that I ever had. My family loves fruits and I’ve always loved that. I stand by that one.
OS: If you were a dinosaur, which would you be and why?
AG: Pterodactyl. They’re really cool. They make awesome sounds. The idea of flying is just fantastic. I’m also a small person and I think that if I were in dinosaur world, I would probably just get killed, but if I could fly I could get away and you can always see everything and are always watching everything too.