UPUA Begins 10th Assembly With Chair Elections
The UPUA opened its 10th Assembly Wednesday night, as Emily McDonald and Terry Ford were sworn in as President and Vice President by former president Anand Ganjam.
UPUA advisor Barry Bram opened the meeting with some words of advice to the newly elected assembly. He defined his role of advisor as being “UPUA’s advocate within the administration,” and promised to represent the students’ needs when meeting with faculty and administrators.
“UPUA is not about you,” Bram told the many fresh faces of the 10th assembly. “It is about the 40,000 other students who are outside the room that you represent. When this gets to be about you, that is when you lose your effectiveness.”
Bram encouraged representatives to be good listeners, actively engage with individuals of all viewpoints, and not take themselves too seriously. Most importantly, he said, “have a lot of fun.”
Bram’s presentation was followed by Emily McDonald’s first presidential report. In one of the more popular points of the night, McDonald discussed the “very real possibility” of a Berkey Creamery ice cream truck after a meeting with transportation services. In his first report as Vice President, Terry Ford discussed Pennsylvania state appropriations and the creation of a budget advisory committee. Ford also mentioned he would attend Big Ten on the Hill this weekend with several other representatives, a chance for member schools to convene in the nation’s capital to advocate for pertinent issues.
The assembly then focused on the eight internal elections of the night.
Speaker of the Assembly
The typically hotly-contested debate for the spot at the front of the room was surprisingly tame. College of Education representative Emily Miller was the only individual nominated, taking her seat which had been anticipated by most UPUAers since before the election. Miller has been the College of Education representative since the seventh assembly, and was most recently the Chair of Academic Affairs in the ninth Assembly. She explained her active role in the McDonald and Ford campaign, and her dedication to not only its platform, but also the ideas of the assembly as a whole.
“My goals for this organization are very clear: I want to do as much impactful work on student life as possible,” said Miller. She explained she wants to work and speak on behalf of the assembly, and be impartial while doing so.
Miller made three promises to the assembly: her dedication and passion for the organization will never waiver, she will hold herself accountable, and she will never take her position for granted. After an unprecedented applause from the assembly following Representative Andrew Ahr’s supportive speech, Miller was elected by a vote of 34-1.
The Facilities Chair election featured two individuals who were brought in during the second half of UPUA’s ninth assembly. At-Large Representatives Adam Terragnoli and Anthony Mitchell each took their turn presenting their experience to the assembly.
Terragnoli first stressed his “vision and passion for facilities,” driven by work experience and a family history in commercial development. He echoed President McDonald’s desire for an ice cream truck, and added the development of a scooter program, overseeing What-To-Fix, and continuing recycling and sustainability initiatives to his plans.
Mitchell took the podium next, discussing his infatuation with UPUA since his freshman convocation. While he initially told the assembly he “ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed,” he offered his fellow representatives more Smash Mouth-driven life advice by saying, “You’ll never know if you don’t go, you’ll never shine if you don’t glow.”
He finished by adding diversity and inclusion would drive many of his plans in the assembly.
The assembly opted for Terragnoli’s ideas, electing him as Facilities chair with a vote of 22-7-1.
Student Life Chair
Two UPUA veterans went head-to-head in the election for Student Life Chair. At-Large Representatives Steffen Blanco and Divy Agnihotri both served as Vice Chair of the Student Life committees during the ninth assembly and highlighted the issues of sexual assault, mental health, and diversity when speaking to the assembly with their own unique spin.
Blanco suggested a day in the fall dedicated to sexual violence awareness, as football weekends are particularly dangerous for students. He also plans on adding mental health programs during midterms, late-drop periods, and finals weeks, as these are the time periods that CAPS receives the most phone calls. In the realm of diversity, Blanco wants to build on the diversity and inclusion report by including the LGBTA communities.
Agnihotri’s sexual assault programs revolved around the 10 Man Plan, which allows member of the community to undergo professional training on bystander intervention. He also presented the idea of a unity week aimed at promoting diversity awareness and raising cultural competency. Agnihotri advocated for CAPS expansion, and introduced the idea of a “career closet” where students can borrow clothes to use during interviews.
In the most contested chair election of the night, Blanco emerged victorious with a vote of 21-13.
Governmental Affairs Chair
At-Large Representative Ryan Valencia was the lone hopeful for the Governmental Affairs Chair. Valencia stressed the importance of college affordability, and plans to drive that message through local legislators rather than immediate discussion with Harrisburg.
Valencia was elected with a vote of 33-2.
Academic Affairs Committee
College of Arts and Architecture Representative Andrew Ahr, the previous Vice Chair of Academic Affairs, received the only nomination for the current chair position. In the most poetic address of the night, Ahr emphasized through repetition that, “connecting is the ability to relate to and identify with other people.”
Moments after comparing the Academic Affairs committee to a train, Ahr became its new conductor when the assembly elected him unanimously.
Borough Council Representative
Freshman Shawn Bengali ran uncontested for Borough Council Representative. He explained his interest in nuisance property ordinances, and improving safety downtown.
Bengali was elected by a vote of 32-3.
Movin’ On Liaison
Former freshman council member Kyra Rogan and newcomer Nikita Page both ran for the Movin’ On Liasion spot. The two individuals stressed a passion for music. While Rogan boasted prior UPUA experience with a past position on the executive board, Page cited experience in the event planning and music industry as a DJ and design engineer.
Page was elected with a vote of 18-15.
Association of Big Ten Students Liaison
Freshmen Samantha Geisinger and Alexandra Leventis competed for the Association of Big Ten Students Liaison. McDonald explained the role of the position would be to better prepare for the Association of Big Ten Students conferences, finance initiatives, and accentuate Penn State’s presence within the organization.
Leventis and Geisinger both mentioned the importance of benchmarking with other Big Ten schools to make UPUA initiatives more robust. Leventis discussed the 10 Man Plan brought up earlier by Agnihotri, and emphasized being a leader among Big Ten schools. Geisinger said she hopes to build relationships with students at other universities to access more information that is not readily available or publicly accessible without the right contact.
Geisinger won with a vote of 19-15.