The Student Programming Association, or SPA for short, is the most funded organization on campus. Between bringing music acts, comedians, or countless other forms of entertainment, everyone at Penn State has probably taken advantage of at least one of SPA’s free programs. From Keenan Thompson to Timeflies, SPA has plenty of awesome acts to live up to for next year, so we caught up with the newly selected executive director Liz Malara to ask her ten questions about what it’s like to control a $1 million budget.
Onward State: What was the process like to be chosen as the new SPA director?
Elizabeth Malara: I knew I wanted to eventually pursue a leadership role within SPA. It’s an organization for which I am deeply passionate, and I thought I could contribute. I’m not gonna lie, I hesitated a bit applying for ED as only a sophomore general member, but once applications were released I decided to give it a shot. The actual process consisted of a written application and an interview with the outgoing executive board and our faculty advisors. Once I was chosen, there was a bit of a transitional phase where the previous ED, Maggie Eason, showed me the ropes. Now I’m settled, and ready for the upcoming year!
OS: What was your previous involvement with SPA?
EM: I joined spring semester of my freshman year. Since then I’ve been really involved, taking on small leadership roles and just doing things here and there to show my commitment. I was chosen to be on this year’s L.E.A.D.(Leadership Experience And Development) team which is basically a group a five people that get to run their own event, from booking to day of event operations. That experience definitely solidified my decision to apply for a leadership role.
OS: Any acts that you are already hoping to bring to Penn State next year?
EM: I don’t have anyone in mind. We’re constantly trying to find upcoming musicians and comedians in that sweet spot where they are perfectly in budget and just about to blow up in popularity. I’d say we’re successful in that area, so really anyone that would be a good fit for Penn State students!
OS: What is the process like for choosing acts?
EM: It’s a group effort spearheaded by our committee chairs. The chairs set up a plan of attack including budget, dates available and show type. Then their committees do some research, independently and collaboratively, and together they narrow options and vote. SPA does its best to program for the student body as whole, so we encourage our members to keep an open mind. It’s a great learning experience for everyone. Some of my favorite comedians and musical groups are ones I’ve discovered because of SPA.
OS: How do you deal with people who come to concerts or shows intoxicated?
EM: SPA is a Penn State affiliated organization, and we 100% do not tolerate any inappropriate behavior. However, we personally do not deal with intoxicated patrons. At all of our events we have Auxiliary or State College Police who take care of those situations.
OS: What’s it like having control of so much student activity fee money?
EM: It’s a big responsibility! We do our best to bring diverse events to campus and listen to the student body. We love taking suggestions and looking for opportunities to reach all audiences. Honestly, check out our social media, and let us know what you want to see! The budget gives us some freedom to try new things and program consistently throughout the year.
OS: What is the most stressful part of your new position?
EM: So far nothing has been too stressful! I’m enjoying the position and working with my fellow SPA leaders. Ask me in a few months, and maybe I’ll have a different answer!
OS: Will you ever bring Beyonce here? Like, really, please bring Beyonce.
EM: I can speak for most of SPA’s members when I say that we would LOVE to bring Queen Bey. However, her presence carries a hefty price tag. As an org, we try to vary up acts and provide consistent opportunities for entertainment throughout the year. It probably won’t be happening anytime soon.
OS: What are you most looking forward to this year
EM: Getting to see SPA from a whole new perspective! I’ll be a little more hands-off on the programming aspect of things, so I can’t wait to see who we bring. SPA has done some incredible things this year, and I look forward to what we’ll do! Get excited!
OS: If you were a dinosaur which would you be and why?
EM: I’m gonna say a Dilophosaurus. That seems like a solid choice. Not to be morbid, but he’s the one that killed off Dennis Nedry in Jurassic Park, and I wasn’t a fan of his. Maybe because he played Newman in Seinfeld. I don’t know!