Meet Association Of Big Ten Students Director Samantha Geisinger
When Penn State’s current student government was getting off the ground, the Association of Big Ten Students refused to recognize UPUA as a legitimate student government. Now, ABTS, an organization of student governments from each of the Big Ten Schools, is run by one of UPUA’s most active and involved members.
For most of us, it’s easy to overlook ABTS because it doesn’t affect our lives week-in and week-out, and most students probably haven’t even heard of it. But for junior Samantha Geisinger, it’s something she works with every day as ABTS Executive Director.
“ABTS is basically a group of all of the student governments from the Big Ten (there’s 14) and we come together basically to bounce ideas off of each other and stay up to date so that if there’s something big happening on one campus and if another school hasn’t implemented a similar policy,” she said.
Geisinger is double majoring in biology & psychology, both neuroscience options. After graduation, she hopes to go to medical school and eventually become a pediatric oncologist. She also chairs UPUA’s Academic Affairs committee.
“[My major] has nothing to do with student government or politics, but the reason I joined UPUA my freshman year is because I like to impact other people’s lives and it bothers me to know that there are things that aren’t right about our school,” Geisinger said.
Each year ABTS holds a winter conference, a summer conference, and Big Ten on the Hill, where each school sends representatives to Washington, D.C. to meet with legislators. Last year Geisinger was the conference coordinator, so she organized each of the gatherings, including the summer conference held here at Penn State. It was at this conference that she was elected ABTS Executive Director.
“I’m in charge of setting the agenda for the executive board and keeping all the schools in contact with each other,” Geisinger said. “We have biweekly executive board meetings…and we basically discuss initiatives that we’re all working on.”
This year, Geisinger’s main goal is to become officially affiliated with the Big Ten. “Right now, we can’t even use their logo,” she said. The ABTS executive board will travel to Chicago over winter break to speak with officials at Big Ten headquarters about this project.
ABTS is also working to partner with the Big Ten Academic Alliance, which is an organization made up of the 14 provosts from the Big Ten schools. Because ABTS isn’t a student organization based at any one school, it’s difficult for its members to deal with financial business, especially when it comes to conferences. In working with the Big Ten Academic Alliance, ABTS would hopefully have a place to house funds and would be able to raise money to reduce the cost of attending conferences (and hopefully never have to spend $3,600 on plane tickets to send three representatives to a single conference).
On a broader scale, ABTS uses its Big Ten on the Hill conference to meet with legislators about the issues important to Big Ten schools that particular year. The platform presented usually consists of “something with Pell grants, scholarships, funding, and whatever else is prominent at the time,” Geisinger said. Representatives of the joint student government try to help legislators understand what the body of 500,000 students is thinking about.
So what’s most unique about Penn State compared to the other schools in the Big Ten?
“Our student government has really good relationships with our administrators,” Geisinger said. “It makes us realize how lucky we are because it’s easy for us to give a student opinion while a lot of other student governments might not have that opportunity.”
As for Geisinger, it’s amazing she finds time to impact not only Penn State students through UPUA, but also thousands of students from each of the Big Ten schools through her position and work with ABTS.
“My favorite quote and something that we live by in UPUA is, ‘If you love something enough to realize that it has flaws, you should change them.’ As much as I love Penn State, I realize that there are issues that I want to change, and ABTS is cool because it’s a nationwide group of students who are all working towards the same goals.”