10 Questions with SPA Exec. Director Maggie Eason
If there’s one group on campus that everyone benefits from at least once during their time at Penn State it’s the Student Programming Association — or SPA for short. The student-run group controls about 25 percent of the student activity fee and uses it to bring in big name concerts and speakers during the year for all of Penn State to enjoy for free. We recently caught up with the woman in charge, Maggie Eason, to see what it’s like being the SPA Executive Director.
Onward State: First off, what is SPA?
Maggie Eason: SPA is the Student Programming Association. We provide different acts for Penn State students, such as bigger-name comedians and concerts, as well as the Distinguished Speaker series. We have smaller-scale acts that come in also, such as hypnotists and magicians. Last year we set up a roller rink in the HUB, and we’ve had events such as cosmic mini-golf. SPA wants to add onto the Penn State experience by providing programming and events outside of the classroom.
OS: What made you want to join SPA?
ME: Oh my gosh, this is such an awkward story, but I’ll tell you the truth. I joined the spring semester of my sophomore year. I had a crush on this kid, and he was all about going to the different SPA events, so when he went away for a co-op, I joined SPA to try that “closeness,” I guess. It’s so cheesy, I know. But as soon as I joined, I fell in love with it. I had so much fun with the people I met, and it was something so different than my normal routine. That’s why I stuck with it.
OS: A lot of people go the concerts and lectures that SPA hosts, but not a lot of people know about SPA as an organization. What is one thing that every student should know about SPA?
ME: Everyone should know that we take suggestions! We program for the students, so we really like getting student input. We want to know what the students want to see, and I think that a lot of students don’t realize that at first. For example, last spring we hosted a metal band here, and we’ve never done that before. But it reached a whole new group of students, and now we get requests to bring in another metal band. We listen to your suggestions! You can Facebook message us, tweet at us using the hashtag #SPAEvents, or email any one of the directors with their input.
OS: If there was a Creamery ice cream flavor named after you, what would it be and why?
ME: I’m not actually that much of an ice cream fan, I’m a cookie person. So if I was gonna be a dessert, I’d rather be a Christmas cookie. I want to be a wreath cookie cutter cookie, with all the sprinkles and icing on top. It’d be delicious.
OS: What’s it like having control of more than $1 million in student activity fee money?
ME: I think it’s really cool because it lets us get creative with booking acts. We have nine different committees, and the budget is split between them all. So as cool as it would be to spend $1 million and bring in Beyonce, it’s unfortunately not going to happen.
(OS: Feel free to spend it all on Kanye West, though, if you’re looking for suggestions.)
ME: That’s your suggestion? I think he might be a little out of our price range (laughs). The acts average around $30,000 each, so having such a big budget gives us a lot of wiggle room.
OS: Explain the normal process for selecting/booking an act.
ME: We normally start with the amount of money that we want to spend. From there, we take the suggestions that we get from students, and review those. Once we have our list of acts, each goes through a screening process, where we listen to the band and see what we like. From there, we look at the act’s availability, to make sure that they can actually come here. Once we finish that and have the finalists, we vote as a group, and we send a contract to the winner. Once we send the contract, it’s up to them if they want to accept it or not.
OS: What’s your favorite act that SPA has booked since you’ve been at Penn State?
ME: Oh no, so many people are gonna judge me! I’m a Hanson girl, I love them. They were actually the first SPA event I ever went to. I remember, it was the fall semester of my freshman year. It was amazing.
OS: What’s a typical day like when a big act is coming to town?
ME: Around 2 p.m. we start loading in the equipment for the stage, lighting equipment, and sound equipment. Then sometime in the mid-afternoon, the act arrives and starts to get ready. Around 7 p.m., the sound check begins, and that can take anywhere from an hour, up. For show that begin at 10 p.m., the doors usually open around 9:30-9:45 p.m., so the committee members get there around 8:30 p.m. Then after the show, we load the acts back up and get them out. It’s a late night, usually ending around 1:30 a.m.
OS: Which actress would play you in a movie about your life?
ME: I don’t really have a favorite actress, and I don’t watch movies very often. I think I’m gonna have to go with Emily Deschanel, Zooey’s sister. Bones is my favorite TV show, and she’s the main character. It’s not a good reason, but that’s alright.
OS: If you were a dinosaur which would you be and why?
ME: I would be a triceratops, hands down. My favorite number is 3, and I just really like triangles for some reason. If people had a favorite shape, mine would be a triangle. I don’t know why, it’s kinda weird. Also, when I was younger, I watched “The Land Before Time,” like most people. Cera was really sassy and I always wanted to be sassy like her. So just a combination of all those things leads to a triceratops.