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10 Questions With UPAC Chair Dan Stauffer

At a school like Penn State, there are a lot of extracurricular activities to get involved in that enable students to have a real impact on the community around them. The University Park Allocations Committee (UPAC) is a great example of an organization that helps others in need around the community garner funding to enhance their educational experience.

We sat down with the 2018-2019 UPAC Chair, Dan Stauffer, to talk with him about what UPAC means to him and what his goals are for the future of UPAC.

Onward State: What is UPAC in your own words?

Dan Stauffer: So I think UPAC is a student service organization, as well as a resource for students and student organizations who want to put on programs, go on travel experiences, buy equipment, put up media publications, and things like that for anyone at University Park. So, I really see us as more of a service organization and a resource for students to use.

OS: What made you want to get involved with UPAC?

DS: This is kind of a funny story actually, so I wasn’t involved in very much my first semester freshmen year. And so, I sort of made this resolution going back for the second semester that I’d want to join more things. As I got into it the first few weeks, I saw a friend of mine from a class I took first semester tabling in the HUB for UPAC. And I asked him what it was and I sort of almost decided that I would like courtesy apply and when I applied and learned more about it I thought that it was just the coolest thing. I had this opportunity to do something important at Penn State, sort of make a difference, and actually get involved — not to mention do something with my friend. So, it was sort of a great opportunity on both ends and the more time I’ve spent, the more I’ve gotten involved, the more I’ve loved it.

OS: Why did you decide to come to Penn State?

DS: I grew up in Bucks County, about 40-45 minutes outside of Philadelphia. Penn State was very much a part of my culture growing up — my dad went here; many relatives went here. So, I think, as I sort of started the college process, I knew I wanted to be an engineer, and Penn State is obliviously a great engineering school, so it was sort of near the top of my list the whole time. There was definitely a part of me as I got sort of near the process that wanted me to go somewhere else off the beat and path. But it really just came down to that I was much more familiar with Penn State, I knew some of the people, I felt like I knew the campus really well, I knew the culture. So in the end, other things being equal, I felt like I was more comfortable here.

OS: What are your responsibilities as UPAC chair?

DS: So, this can kind of go everywhere, there’s a lot. So as UPAC chair, one of the things I do is I read, review, and preview all the budget requests that we get. We usually get somewhere around 850 a year. I’ll read them all, make sure they’re all complete, and then sometimes recommend funding and sometimes send them to committee. I chair our larger meetings—so our Policy meetings and Standing Allocation meetings. And then, I sort of act as a face for UPAC, as well, meeting with media and things like that. I sit on the Student Fee Board as a non-voting member. I go to Student Leader Roundtable meetings. And, one of the sort of, favorite things that I get do is I act as a point of contact for requesters, I really enjoy getting to talk directly with people who request money from us. Even though I can be really busy and have a lot to do, I really enjoy spending time in our office and being able to sit down and talk through budgets with the people who we work with.

OS: What is the most important thing you want to accomplish as UPAC chair this year?

DS: Yeah, so I mentioned earlier that we’re really a service organization and a resource for people and I don’t think you can be a really good service unless you’re accessible to people. So, I want to spend this year focusing on making things easier for the people we work with—the students and student orgs who request money from us. I want to make our process more transparent, less cumbersome, and things along those lines so that we can really really feel like we’re helping more students. Yeah, because I really feel like if you’re a service org and you’re not looking to improve and not making it easier for people to get things from you, then you’re not doing it correctly.

OS: What was your initial reaction when you found out you had been named UPAC Chair?

DS: Yeah, so, this is a funny story. I was in our advisors’ office with one of our advisors and the chair, at the time, and when they told me, you could tell how excited they were. They were ecstatic. They were smiling. They were like, “Congratulations, we’d love to offer you the position of UPAC chair for the next year,” and I stood there with a blank look on my face. I was totally flat-faced, like petrified, and you could tell they were kind of like taken aback by that a little bit. But, the advisor said, “It’s okay, take a second, gather your thoughts,” and things like that and then I was so so excited. I couldn’t stop smiling, I thanked them both a ton. I said, “You know, I’m so so excited to get started,” and I even asked the chair, “When’s the first time that we can meet and get started on transition stuff and me learning?”

OS: What’s your favorite thing about being a Penn Stater?

DS: Yeah, I think my favorite thing about being a Penn Stater has to do with all of the opportunities that we have. Being UPAC chair, I really get a chance to see a lot of all the different things that go on on campus. People putting on programs, and going abroad to different travel experiences, putting out publications, building things with all this crazy equipment, and stuff like that. And I think those opportunities are incredible, but I think a lot of colleges can claim that they give students that kind of opportunities. What strikes me about Penn State is how amazingly well the students use those resources. I’m really proud to be a Penn Stater because I see the pride that all these students put into the programs and travel experiences that they participate in.

OS: What else are you involved in on campus?

DS: Yeah, so I haven’t had a ton of time this year to be involved in other things. I like to keep up with sort of the other things going on in student government and student organizations. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m a non-voting member of the Student Fee Board. I’m a member of the Student Leadership Roundtable, so I talk with those people as well. Yeah, that’s really what it is for me right now. Last year, I was involved in undergraduate research for the industrial engineering department. I spent time researching new ways to measure electrical impulses in the heart and ways to use those methods to identify people who are at risk for heart attacks. So, now that that’s over I have a little bit more free time, but right now, I’m really sort of just enjoying being UPAC chair and learning along with it.

OS: How can others get involved with UPAC?

DS: Seriously, it’s just talking to us. Come to the office, talk to us. It seems like such an interesting and fun organization when you hear that there’s this group that like gives away three and a half million dollars. If you come talk to us, you’ll understand that that’s not why we’re here. That’s not why anyone’s on the committee. Seriously, just drop by our office and sit down with anyone and talk with them and you’ll understand that everyone here on the committee really really has a deep understanding of the fact that we’re here to enhance student life at University Park. If you feel like that fits your profile and you’re really interested in that and you agree with those kinds of values, there’s an application on our website upac.psu.edu, shameless plug there. If you fill that out, you’ll get an email from me in the next couple of days and then we can sit down to talk about your fit on the committee.

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

DS: Yeah, so this is definitely going to be the most obscure answer you’re like ever going to get to this question. Growing up, my mom used to read me this childhood book called Danny and the Dinosaur, which probably not many people have heard of unless their name is Dan. And, it’s basically about this little kid who goes on this museum trip when he’s young and he sees this dinosaur that like comes alive, this huge yellow dinosaur and they spend the day together–going and like eating ice cream, and going to the zoo, and going to baseball games. So, I guess if I was picking a dinosaur to be, I’d pick that dinosaur from the story because what dinosaur wouldn’t want to eat ice cream and go to a baseball game.

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About the Author

Emma Dieter

Emma is a senior from the ever-popular "right-outside" Philly area studying labor employment relations and PR. She's also the Student Life editor for Onward State. She has been a Penn Stater from cradle and will continue to bleed blue and white, 'til grave. She loves trashy romance novels, watching Netflix, and crying over cute videos of dogs. If you ever want to talk more with her about how great she is, or simply have other inquiries, feel free to email her at [email protected]

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