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10 Questions With Student Body President Zach McKay

After navigating a tricky remote campaign period, the new University Park Undergraduate Association president is rising senior Zach McKay.

During the past week, McKay, alongside vice president Lexy Pathickal, has already gotten to work holding numerous virtual meetings with administration and prior UPUA executive members to ease their transition. McKay helped lead the first virtual meeting of the 15th Assembly on Wednesday evening.

We sat down ~virtually~ with the new student body president to ask him some grilling questions, ranging from asking about his experience within UPUA thus far, and his favorite Creamery ice cream flavor.

Onward State: How and why did you first get involved with UPUA?

Zach McKay: My freshman year, as I mentioned on the campaign trail, I came to Penn State as an acting student. Throughout my time interacting with different Arts & Architecture students, I began to hear a lot of the different concerns and problems which they were facing as those students.

Whether it was a lack of funds for different materials in very major-specific classes or the like, I found ways in which to get involved and I found that the Arts & Architecture seat was going to open up during the next election. So I decided to run. I thought that would be the best way to represent those concerns to the General Assembly, and I never looked back.

OS: What made you decide to run for president?

ZM: Throughout my last year and serving on the Steering Committee and really watching the organization from a sort of leadership perspective, I began to see a lot of the changes which could only be brought about as the executive. I saw that in many ways the ideals of responsibility, integrity, honesty, and then accountability, really did trickle down from the executive itself. I knew that if the UPUA were ever to grow in terms of that transparency and in terms of that effectiveness, the executive would need to embody those things too.

I contemplated it for a long time as to whether I was the most fit for it, but at the end of the day, I decided that my best friend, Lexy Pathickal, and I were the most qualified and the most experienced ones ready to go and tackle the job.

OS: What are some of your favorite projects or initiatives you’ve gotten to work on while being in UPUA thus far?

ZM: Definitely anything regarding PSU Votes. Obviously serving as the Chair of Governmental Affairs, I’ve had the unique opportunity of collaborating with almost 20 organizations, sometimes plus depending on the events, to put on different civic engagement events.

Whether it be debates between the Borough Council candidates, or debates between the political organizations on things like climate action policy, by far being that sort of moderator and being able to bring everybody together under the shared purpose that we must be doing better in this world on a totally larger scale has been by far my favorite thing.

OS: What advice would you give to incoming Penn State students?

ZM: Trust yourself, and trust the process. I’ll say that I was very unsure of myself my freshman year and really where I would end up fitting in to the entire process, but I quickly found that Penn State has the resources and opportunities that you not only need to succeed but can truly help make a lasting impact on the community around you. Sometimes it takes a little bit of digging, and sometimes reaching out and asking for help will always be the best way to go about things, but know that those opportunities to help and serve others are always there.

OS: How has the coronavirus pandemic affected or changed parts of your platform or what you and Lexy hope to do with your roles?

ZM: The platform has always been shaped around the idea that we won’t necessarily be in person for a good deal, in fact, we have an entire part of the platform dedicated to a response to the given situation. All in all, we’re very confident that we’ll still be able to accomplish a good deal. The assembly is still able to meet virtually, I’ve still able to take what seems to be countless Zoom calls over the last few weeks and what will be the next few months, so I’m very confident that we’ll be able to get everything done.

OS: Where is your favorite place, on or off-campus, to study or hang out?

ZM: I answered this during the debate, but in the Nursing Building, just the general architecture of the glass wall and its close proximity to the downtown area has always really interested me. Some other personal favorites I suppose would be the library, specifically the Harry Potter Room, and then also the Theatre Building as that was one of my first experiences at Penn State.

OS: What has been your favorite class at Penn State so far?

ZM: Definitely the acting classes that I took my freshman year with professors Steven Snyder and Wendell Franklin. Those two gentlemen by far have encouraged me to discover what it really means to be an effective advocate both on the stage, and now I suppose, on a much different stage. They really did encapsulate I think what it means to be self-reflective and then really turn that attention toward helping the community at large.

OS: What is your favorite Creamery flavor?

ZM: It’s always a bit of a toss-up for me between Peachy Paterno and Death by Chocolate. Death by Chocolate is always a favorite by the Penn State community, and I am certainly no exception, but Peachy Paterno is kind of always there for those days which I really do feel like I could die from too much chocolate.

OS: If you could choose a fictional character to serve as UPUA president who would you choose and why?

ZM: Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird. I think anybody who’s read To Kill A Mockingbird understands that Atticus really understood the nuances of the trial which he was given and really embodies the sort of empathy, leadership, and inspiration which the community very quickly caught on to and I think which an effective leader should have.

OS: As is Onward State tradition, if you were a dinosaur, which one would you be and why?

ZM: The diplodocus. It’s certainly not a very popular one, at least in terms of a response to this question, but it is very popular around the world. It is considered one of the most popular skeletal dinosaurs just because Andrew Carnegie made copies of it and sent it around the world, so it’s in so many different museums right now. The original is of course, here in Pittsburgh outside the Carnegie Museum, but there’s a big statue of it outside called Dippy the Dinosaur, and the community really loves it.

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About the Author

Ryen Gailey

Ryen is a junior early childhood education major from "right outside of Philly" - or in exact words, from 23.0 miles outside of Philly. She loves all things Penn State and has been a huge Penn State gal since before she could walk. Send her pictures of puppies, or hate mail at [email protected]

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