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10 Questions With Student Fee Board Chair Tyler Akers

Since its inception in 2016, the Student Fee Board has set two academic years’ worth of student fee rates and allocations.

This year, the board elected junior Tyler Akers to serve as chair, a position previously held by 2017-2018 UPUA President Katie Jordan. Akers is one of four representatives from UPUA on the Fee Board and also serves as chair of UPUA’s Student Life Committee.

We sat down with Akers to discuss his new role and his vision for the Student Fee Board.

Onward State: Why did you decide to get involved with the Student Fee Board?

Tyler Akers: I was interested in getting involved with the Student Fee Board mostly because of all the impact I’ve seen it make over the past three years. The fee board was a brand-new body my freshman year, so being a freshman in UPUA I got to watch leaders in my organization and leaders in other organizations kind of build this brand new institution, really talking about, like, what shared governance truly looks like with regards to student fee dollars, which is really exciting. An over-arching reason why is I really do believe students should have a say with where their money is going to, what type of programs are we funding, making sure that we’re really enhancing the out-of-class experience so every student at University Park can really love campus and love life outside of the classroom.

OS: What are your responsibilities as chair of the board?

TA: My main responsibility as fee board chair is to reach out to the different units on campus that typically request fee allocations every year as well reach out to new units who might be requesting fees for the first time. Then set up a schedule where they will come into the full fee board, present their budgets for the year, how their fees would benefit the entire student body, and then basically facilitate conversation among the rest of the fee board about how we should allocate money and to what specific units. With that, I also help fill in the kind of strategic plan for the fee board for the year trying to fulfill some more over-arching initiatives.

OS: Last year you danced in THON. What was your favorite part of that experience?

TA: I was miserable for forty-six hours. And so that might sound like a really big exaggeration, because it is, but I was like, I had a rough time dancing at THON, like really rough time. But what got me through it the entire time was obviously the kids and just getting to watch the smiles on their faces as we played with them, as we danced with their families, things like that. And also my support network. I remember getting all of my mail, I think it was like late Saturday night, and just like sobbing from like all the support I got from home, really got me through those forty-six hours.

OS:  How has your involvement in UPUA prepared you for your role with the fee board?

TA: As student life chair in UPUA I have a pretty unique relationship with a lot of the student affairs departments who are coming into the fee board requesting allocations. So, for example, I work very closely with CAPS, who obviously is a very large receiver of student fee dollars, so I really have a unique understanding of their needs and their wants for the year. I’ve also sat on different committees within UPUA, like facilities, so I have a pretty strong understanding how the facilities debt plays into different workings on campus and as well as the needs of campus rec.

OS: If you could have dinner with any Penn State alum, who would you choose?

TA: So, most Penn State students and alum probably don’t even know this alum but I would have to get dinner with the Hulk. So, Bruce Banner is one of the very few comic characters in history who went to Penn State and did research here so I like love the Avengers. So, I would definitely get dinner with the Hulk.

OS: What’s your number one goal for the fee board this year?

TA: So, like I mentioned, the fee board is only three years old. There are a lot of institutional problems right now that we still need to resolve. So, holes within our operational codes and our handbook. So probably my biggest job is to fill in those gaps, look at how we can standardize our processes to make sure that we are most effectively setting up our fee board but also fee boards for years to come.

OS: What do you like to do when you’re not working on UPUA, fee board, or school work? Any hobbies?

TA: I am like the world’s biggest Harry Potter nerd so like I probably watch a little too much Harry Potter. I’ve seen each of the movies probably one hundred times each. And that probably sounds like an exaggeration, but my roommate Jake Griggs could probably confirm that for you. So, yea, at night I go home, put on a movie, knock myself right out to Harry Potter.

OS: What’s your favorite program or service that the Student Fee funded for this year?

TA: I think my favorite entity that we fund through the Student Fee Board would have to be CAPS. A couple years ago we had a serious mental health crisis here on campus, and the student fee board was the one that really stepped up. [It] was really a driving force to make sure that CAPS received the proper fee funding. In the past year we’ve gone to see extreme amounts of increase in their services throughout the year so they are seeing I believe like 25% more students per year because of the funding that the fee board was able to provide.

OS: How can the average student get involved in what the fee board is doing?

TA: I would say there’s really two ways that the average student can get involved with the fee board. The first one is to vote in your student government elections. So the fee board is made up of five at-large members, four UPUA members, and then three GPSA members. So, students are really electing the majority of people who do sit on the fee board so vote in the elections each March, they’re super important. And then with that, a much more hands-on way that students can get involved is by taking advantage of our liquidity program. So, students can basically come to us and we can help pay for different travel expenses up front so as long as you’ve already received UPAC funding for your student organization to go to conferences, or just trips in general, we can pay upfront so you don’t have to put it on your personal credit cards.

OS: Per Onward State tradition, if you could be any dinosaur, what would you be and why?

TA: So, if I could be a dinosaur, I would be an Argentinosaurus because they had like the biggest appetite out of any dinosaur and they’re like, they were so hungry all the time that their environments started to like change and shift around them to like fulfill their needs. So, yea, I would be an Argentinosaurus.

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About the Author

Gabby Logsdon

Gabby is a sophomore working toward an English degree (what to do with it is still unknown). When she isn't trash-talking the current influx of shitty novels, she's updating her list of places with the best strawberry banana smoothie, scrolling twitter for the latest celeb drama, and napping 2-3 times a day. Follow her on twitter @galogsdon if you have no taste, or email her at [email protected] for complaints.

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