UPUA Presidential Candidate Spotlight: Ryan Belz
In high school, Ryan Belz attended multiple football games at Beaver Stadium, and watched a certain meteorology program blossom into the renowned department it is today. After those experiences, he found himself applying to only one university: Penn State.
“I put all of my eggs in one basket,” he said. “And luckily I got in.”
Applying to only one college is a gutsy move, but Belz insists that he was meant to become a Penn State student. Now, he wants to make the most of his Nittany Lion experience by becoming president of the UPUA.
The idea of running a presidential campaign isn’t new to Belz. As a freshman, he almost entered the presidential race with a write-in campaign. He swiftly asked a director what he needed to do to start such a grassroots surge right before the elections, but was told he was a week late and couldn’t run.
But missing that chance to campaign didn’t stop Belz. He turned to school, focusing on his broadcast journalism major, his geography minor, and his weather forecasting certification. He also joined multiple committees and assumed various roles within and outside of UPUA, providing him with the experience that he believes qualifies him to lead the organization. Among the diverse positions, Belz has served as the College of Communications representative, chaired the UPUA’s Internal Development Committee, is an active member of the College Republicans, and serves as a shift manager for the Campus Weather Service.
Outside of all his activities, Belz states that he is in the midst of his proudest Penn State moment as he runs his own campaign. But before Belz entered the UPUA Presidential race, he needed to find the perfect running mate. That’s when he turned to sophomore Zach Longstreth.
“I wanted to ask him for a handful of reasons,” he said. “I wanted to ask him weeks before I actually did, but was trying to pick the right time. Finally, we were sitting in Taco Bell, and I don’t know why I did it then.”
After some time to consider the proposition, and some words of encouragement from Belz, Longstreth was swayed.
Longstreth has his own list of impressive achievements. A Smeal student and UPUA at-large representative, Longstreth was previously the vice chair of the Internal Development Committee, and is currently a representative to the HUB-Robeson Center Advisory Board, where he serves as the Chair of the Space Allocation Committee.
Belz states that the two make the perfect team with their ability to bounce ideas off each other.
“We agree on a lot of things, but we also don’t agree on a lot of things,” he said. “We both agree that you can’t be close-minded and think about just helping the student population now, it has to be looking forward too. We don’t want to be in the 2050 meeting and have them playing catch up.”
They’ve taken a unique approach to their campaign. Instead of listing out initiatives for their platform, the two have four broad, overreaching categories:
- Success and Effectiveness Through Student Empowerment
- Diversity, Inclusion, and Broadened Perspectives
- Support of President Barron’s Six Points for Change
- Continued Strengthening and Improvement of Your Student Government
“It is a completely different approach, but in a good way,” Belz acknowledged. “In the past and present, candidates have had a vast array of specific initiatives that they wanted to see accomplished. While I can see that being good, I think the bad outweighs the good in this case. From prior experience, the Executive Committee has to shove those ideas down the throats of assembly members and have them accomplish X, Y, and Z by the end of their tenure.”
As a result, said Belz, most of those candidates’ initiatives never see the light of day. He argued that this platform will provide the assembly with a better chance to hear individual concerns as they come up. This could be seen as yet another chapter in a dynamic, if not eccentric, UPUA career that included a vote to censure Belz following an attempt to silence the media and other frivolous items brought to the floor in several meetings.
“What I’ve tried to work on this year has been things that would benefit the student body best,” he explained. “I don’t want to go into a Wednesday night meeting every week and it be, ‘Oh, we passed this unanimously.’ There needs to be discussions that people can hear with opinions and then a well thought-out decision can be made.”
Belz feels that the position of president isn’t one where you need a laundry list of initiatives. Instead, he argued that the power belongs to the representatives. Belz said it’s up to the legislative branch to craft the legislation, while the executive branch simply sees it through and works to enforce it. However, with this approach, some question how Belz would be held accountable in his position.
“If we’re not doing our job, they have every right to impeach us,” Belz countered. “Just like they have every right to do so for every other member. There’s always a check and balance between the branches.”
Belz’s campaign has also assumed another notable characteristic: an orange theme.
“Orange is just my favorite color,” Belz explained.