YOUSRV: Training the Next Generation of UPUA
In the years since its establishment, UPUA and its members have made great strides to prove themselves as legitimate in the wake of the disbandment of USG, University Park’s former governing body. Projects such as the White Loop extension and creating a seat for a student representative on the Borough Council are a few of the better-known successes for UPUA and its presidents.
One of UPUA’s lesser known projects is not one that immediately affects the student body. At least, not in the short-term.
The YOUSRV program was established last year during the 4th Assembly by former Chief of Staff Matt Smith as a way to reach out to freshman and help them get involved, aside from the two representative seats reserved for them. The “interns,” as program members are known, are educated on the ins and outs of UPUA before the opportunity to run for a seat on the Assembly presents itself in March.
That’s where I come in.
As a freshman, I have chosen to immerse myself in various aspects of Penn State culture: THON, Onward State, and UPUA are my three largest activities. While here for summer session, I got word of UPUA through a presentation held by President Christian Ragland and Director of Freshman Outreach Rebecca Alt, who both served as LEAP Mentors. They introduced to us the opportunities UPUA offered for freshman, and I decided that night that I definitely wanted to get involved through the intern program.
In October, applications were submitted, interviews scheduled, and interns selected. During our interviews, we picked our preferences for what area of UPUA we wished to intern in and were placed based on this. From there, I was placed on the Programming Committee. Then, the YOUSRV program truly began.
Typically, the week for interns consists of “class” on Wednesdays and Thursdays, Assembly Wednesday nights, committee and mentor meetings, and any other special projects that may arise throughout the semester. Although Assembly is not mandatory, it is interesting to go to hear how things should run in the class and watch how things actually pan out in the large Assembly.
Class is where we are taught the workings of UPUA, though this can be a theoretical approach because, as we all know, things don’t always go as planned. Led by Alt and other representatives, each class opens with a discussion of campus current events and moves into the topic for the evening. So far, our lessons have been on various topics including different committees, the Executive Board, and the vast history of student government at Penn State. This semester, we are scheduled to learn about a few committees and Faculty Senate, and will be getting a bit more hands on to simulate debate and writing legislation. I like to think of this as our little UPUA boot camp.
In my experience so far with UPUA, I have learned that governing and working as a representative body is not always simple. Personalities don’t always mesh, people nitpick over minute details, and things don’t always work out as planned. However, I’ve also learned that when things come together and work out, good things can get done. I’m excited to see what comes from the rest of this program, and I definitely think learning the workings through YOUSRV will be beneficial in my future with the organization.