UPUA Presidential Candidate Spotlight: Emily McDonald
Emily McDonald wasn’t always set on coming to Penn State. Her entire immediate family had attended West Virginia University, and McDonald initially committed to the Morgantown university in October of her senior year of high school, but ultimately flipped to Penn State after a campus visit. McDonald’s parents were a little shocked at first, but ultimately became supportive after they realized she didn’t possess the same “fire” to attend Penn State’s western neighbor.
Ever since she set foot on campus in 2012, McDonald, a junior majoring in economics and international politics, has been heavily involved. She’s a sister of Alpha Xi Delta, and served on the 2014 Panhellenic Judicial Board. She’s also continually held positions in UPUA, and is the current vice president of the 9th assembly. She’s been a member of Penn State’s student government since her first year in State College when she served as a freshman representative.
Her many years of involvement in UPUA stemmed from her work in grade school student government, serving as both her middle and high school student body president.
“I’ve always loved student leadership,” she said.
Since joining UPUA, McDonald said she always wanted to run for president. Although she never planned on serving as vice president, McDonald feels like her time spent with current president Anand Ganjam helped her create relationships that will help if elected to office.
Last year, in his presidential candidate spotlight, Ganjam said picking his running mate was an easy choice.
“First off, we were both freshman representatives. I just feel like that experience of being in student government right when you get here is something we can both relate to,” Ganjam said. “It’s been our passion since the day that we got here.”
McDonald hopes to carry her productivity into her own term.
“In terms of getting things done, we’ve done the most of any assembly I’ve been a part of,” she said.
The campaign would not be complete without the help of her vice presidential candidate, Terry Ford. Ford is a sophomore majoring in accounting. Like McDonald, he has been a part of UPUA since his freshman year. It was an easy pick for McDonald, who characterized Ford as an “undercover hard worker” who doesn’t seek the extrinsic praise of others.
McDonald and Ford created a lengthy and detailed platform that encompasses various aspects of student life at Penn State. There are eight broad areas of focus — academic affairs, diversity, facilities, student life, governmental affairs, technology, outreach, student finance, and tuition — each with its own intended initiatives.
The top three policies they plan to focus on are a mental health task force, college affordability, and the HeForShe campaign. McDonald suggested that mental health is an increasing problem on campus, and believes a task force would allow for a more direct way to address related concerns on campus.
But it’s through the HeForShe campaign that McDonald hopes to stand out from other candidates. And with recent allegations that a campus fraternity housed a Facebook page that demeaned women through nude and unconscious photos, McDonald thinks it’s time for the issue to be taken seriously.
“What better time to have men signing on that they want equality for females,” she said.
In addition to the concrete plans that McDonald and Ford have in place, experience is also on their side. The pair claimed they would have only a small learning curve because of their experience in UPUA, and due to the many relationships they’ve built within the student government. McDonald highlighted relationships with President Eric Barron, Provost Nicholas Jones, and Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims that would already be solidified if elected.
Throughout their five years of combined experience in UPUA, McDonald and Ford boast many prideful successes. In the past year, they secured $300,000 in additional CAPS funding, created the Diversity and Inclusion Report, and established the University Strategic Plan Student Advisory Committee.
Although McDonald knows that some of the proposed policies in their platform could be very difficult to carry out, especially the Inspired Doers and Anti-Hunger Games campaigns — the latter of which would help students in need obtain unused meal points — the duo has been in talks with all necessary faculty and committees to assure that all policies on the platform are at least a possibility.
“There’s nothing on there that is a shot in the dark,” she said. “All the initial conversations were there.”