As elections for UPUA’s 12th Assembly draw near, we sat down with presidential candidate Sammy Geisinger and running-mate Jorge Zurita-Coronado to learn more about their campaign and why they hope to head the next assembly.
Geisinger is a junior from Cape May, New Jersey double-majoring in biology, along with psychology and neuroscience, but she’s no newbie to the political scene. Geisinger got involved in UPUA right from the get-go by serving on the Freshman Council. She also took on responsibility as an active member of the department of communications. For the past two years, she has been the Eberly College of Science representative and served as the Academic Affairs Chair for the 11th Assembly. Aside from these positions, Geisinger also serves as the Executive Director for the Association of Big Ten Students, where she works closely with fellow Big Ten student governments to help benefit the Penn State community.
Throughout her tenure in student government, Geisinger has worked on numerous issues. She’s been involved extensively with academic affairs; projects such as the extension of dining hours during finals week and ensuring that mental health resources were listed on class syllabi. Over the past year, her primary accomplishments include mandating early progress reports in classes and working extensively on implementing a freshman forgiveness program — something most other Big Ten schools have already have.
“If you compare UPUA to other Big Ten schools, we’re one of the smallest student governments. But with that said, we are, in my opinion, one of the best student governments in the country,” Geisinger said. “We’ve been ridiculously successful this past year because we’ve finally developed the right kind of relationship with administrators — we know how to work together now. I think we’re at this really great place where we know what we need to do and it’s just time to start doing it.”
For Geisinger, working as Executive Director of the Association of Big Ten Students provided her with invaluable insight she would have otherwise never had.
“Having the ability to work with other Big Ten schools and see what works and what doesn’t work with them has been one of the greatest experiences. It’s given me a better grip on how to run an administration since I do have all of these other student body presidents to rely upon and look to for advice,” she said.
Geisinger’s running mate and vice presidential candidate Jorge Zurita-Coronado is also a junior. He hails from Oxford, Pennsylvania and is studying political science at Penn State. Just like his running mate, Zurita-Coronado also got involved with student government at the start of his Penn State career. He served on the Freshman Council for three months before leaving to take on an executive position with the Latino Caucus. Jorge didn’t stay away from UPUA for too long, though — he soon returned as an at-large representative his sophomore year. Throuhout the past year, he’s continued to serve as an at-large representative as well as the Vice Chair of Student Life.
Zurita-Coronado has worked primarily on diversity inclusion. “When we talk about diversity-inclusion it’s not just diversity of race, but also gender, sexual orientation, etcetera. Regardless of where you come from or what your characteristics are, this university should work for you,” he said.
He’s also worked to foster a better connection between UPUA and the other student organizations it advocates for. “When I walk into a room or meeting, I’m not just seen as Jorge from UPUA, but rather just Jorge,” Zurita-Coronado said. “A lot of these under-represented organizations feel that they’re able to come to me and voice their concerns because they don’t feel like this university is working for them. So that’s something I think we both want to see more of, a better connection between UPUA and student orgs.”
Their campaign is built on the mission state ‘We Run for You.” One of the major focuses of the Geisinger/Zurita-Coronado ticket has been a call for greater administrative action to promote diversity inclusion.
“It’s been a long process having these tough conversations with these different communities about how we can help them,” Geisinger said. [“Jorge and I] just feel very passionately that it’s time to start launching these tangible missions to show outside communities that UPUA really does care about them.”
Her running mate preached transparency as a part of his vision.
“There’s that saying that goes ‘actions speak louder than words,’ and I think that holds extremely true here. One of the things I’d like to see UPUA do is become a more open organization, where people feel they can come to us to voice their concerns,” Zurita-Coronado explains. “We’re here to represent other students, we’re not here to represent ourselves.”
What separates them from their competitors? President-hopeful Geisinger highlighted the ticket’s ability to relate to the student body. “Apart from our leadership and our engagement outside of UPUA, if you look at me and Jorge we’re two minorities. In fact, not only are we two minorities — a woman and a Latino — I also have mental health issues and I’m a STEM major. I think we really encompass a lot of the student body and we’re able to represent them without having to try, and that’s just a ridiculously important quality. To be able to go into a room and not think about what students want, but already know because you’ve experienced it yourself is something that we definitely bring to the table.”
They’re not alone in this thinking either. The Geisinger/Zurita-Coronado ticket has several endorsements behind them. To date, they have 19 mutual, 51 individual, and 9 organizational endorsements supporting them.
“In my work with diversity, I’ve really been able to see these students personal struggles and hear their personal stories and be engaged with the student body,” Zurita-Coronado said. “So for me on a personal basis I’m not doing this for me, I’m doing it so that no other student has to deal with the things these students have dealt with. The ability to make a difference in these people’s lives has been the most rewarding thing for me and something I’d like to continue doing.”