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10 Questions With ABTS Executive Director Jake Griggs

Student governance at Penn State extends beyond the day-to-day workings of UPUA on campus.

The Association of Big Ten Students (ABTS) — an organization of student governments from each of the Big Ten schools — bands together student leaders in hopes of increasing information sharing and networking across the schools.

It can be easy to overlook as an average student, but for a few Penn Staters, this advocacy organization has become a huge part of their daily lives.

Recent graduate Samantha Geisinger served as the ABTS executive director for two years, and now junior Jake Griggs is at the post after being elected at the ABTS summer conference.

We sat down with Griggs to talk about his vision for the organization and all things Big Ten.

Onward State: What made you want to get involved in ABTS?

Jake Griggs: As a member of the leadership for UPUA, I had to go to a conference called Big Ten on the Hill, which is essentially the Big Ten student governments all get together in D.C. and there’s a conference, and then you go and you have meetings with legislators, and then you advocate for issues that affect everyone in the Big Ten. And, as kind of a government junkie and the chair of gov. affairs here, I thought that was really really cool, you know, because my big thing is, when you advocate to the government, you have to have really good quality of advocacy, but really good quantity as well. And so for me, Big Ten on the Hill and ABTS as a whole is kind of like the picture of good advocacy because there’s a lot of people doing really good advocacy, so I enjoyed it a lot and that’s when I decided I wanted to get involved.

OS: What are your responsibilities as executive director?

JG: So my main job is to manage the executive board. There are six of us, I believe. My main job personally is to keep in contact with the student body presidents when we’re working on initiatives, kind of collaborate between them. Yeah, I’m pretty much just like a big liaison between everybody.

OS: If you had to go to any other Big Ten school, where would you go?

JG: Uhh…anywhere but Rutgers…no. Rutgers is a great school. I’m not answering that! That’s a trap question!

OS: What do you want to accomplish with ABTS this year?

JG: One thing we’re really focused on is legitimization and having some financial flexibility, so one of the things we’re looking into is to enter into a fiscal sponsorship with another organization. This would allow us to actually have like a bank account to hold money and to have more effective conferences. It would make everything we do a lot easier.

OS: How has UPUA helped prepare you for this role?

JG: It’s prepared me a lot. As chair of gov. affairs for UPUA, my job is to handle legislative advocacy, just for Penn State to our legislators, so ABTS is essentially that, just on a larger scale, representing all of the schools to all of those legislators. But the other part of ABTS is the idea sharing in between student governments, and so being a member of UPUA all three years has shown me the importance of collaborating with other schools on initiatives, like mental health awareness week, and sexual assault prevention, and so sharing those ideas is huge.

OS: How much shit will you get if Penn State wins the Big Ten?

JG: When Penn State wins the Big Ten, I guess it doesn’t really matter what a whole bunch of losers have to say about it, does it?

OS: Besides governance, what are your hobbies?

JG: That’s a very good question. I listen to a lot of music, I watch a lot of stand-up comedy, I watch The Office a lot, pretty basic stuff.

OS: If you had to live one Penn State day over and over again, what day would you choose?

JG: Definitely 2016 the White Out game against Ohio State, storming the field. That was like my big “this is Penn State” experience.

OS: How can students get involved in ABTS?

JG: The whole spirit of ABTS is civic engagement and getting involved on campus, so I would just say if you’re interested in government, become civically engaged, register people to vote, things like that. If not, educate yourself on issues like mental health awareness and sexual assault prevention. Join organizations that ally to make a difference on campus.

OS: If you could be any dinosaur, what would you be and why?

JG: See, I want to say something cool, but honestly, I think I’d really enjoy being like a Brachiosaurus, you know, with the really long — and you just kind of meander around, eat leaves all day, it seems very relaxing to me. And I’m already kind of like lanky and gangly, so it makes sense.

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About the Author

Elissa Hill

Elissa was the managing editor of Onward State from 2017-2019. She is from Punxsutawney, PA [insert corny Bill Murray joke here] and considers herself an expert on all things ice cream. Follow her on Twitter (@ElissaKHill) for more corny jokes.

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