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10 Questions With Student Body President-Elect Erin Boas

It’s that time of the year again, folks. The University Park Undergraduate Association has a new president: rising senior Erin Boas.

Boas won the election uncontested with her running mate, rising junior Najee Rodriguez. She will kick off the organization’s 16th Assembly when UPUA returns virtually.

To learn more about Penn State’s next student body president, we virtually sat down with Boas.

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

Erin Boas: I, like many freshmen, went to the involvement fair. I remember weaving through all the tables, and on the outskirts, UPUA had a table set up. As I was leaving, there was somebody shouting out from the UPUA table, “Do you want the chance to better at least one life of a fellow Penn Stater?,” and I thought that was a sign that I should listen.

I stopped at the table and got to hear a little bit more of what UPUA was. I never thought I would be involved with student government, but once I learned the kind of reach you can have and the different things that UPUA was able to do, I fell in love with the organization.

OS: What made you decide to run for president?

EB: Throughout the past three years of being in the organization, I’ve sat on all five of the committees as a representative. I’ve also served in various roles within those committees. I’ve gotten to see holistically what UPUA can do and a lot of the different student needs.

Whether it be just a daily task that the student might need help accomplishing or an institutionalized change, there’s so much ability within the organization to really have that reach to the university in order to advocate on behalf of students.

In the past year, I’ve gotten to interact with more people on the university administration side and saw the power that we have when we bring student testimonials and bring students actually into the rooms to advocate for themselves.

Now after the pandemic, I’ve gotten to see just how many needs students have and being able to work with them in order to better their lives can’t be compared to anything else. Both my experience and passion have driven me to run for president.

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

EB: One of my all-time favorites, I consider it my baby, is the Women’s Empowerment Roundtable. I started it up this past year with a group of other representatives, and basically, it’s a university-wide roundtable that all want to dedicate their time to learning how we can empower the lives of women at Penn State.

We’ve done some pretty cool things within there, such as talking about how to decrease barriers for menstruators on campus, opportunities for female entrepreneurs, and promoting Black feminists and how we can really have allyship in that area.

The Women’s Empowerment Roundtable has just shown me how dedicated the community is at bettering each other and working for each other.

OS: How will you work to make UPUA a more progressive, open, and safe space?

EB: That’s definitely one of the biggest priorities that Najee and I have. We want to make sure that when we look at UPUA. We want to make sure students know who we are. A lot of the time, you can go to a senior, and you say the words “UPUA,” and they don’t know who that is. We’re there to support you and work with you, so we want to make sure that UPUA is visible to the students.

Internally, we really want to foster that environment of diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging. One of the most crucial things that we are going to do right off the bat is work diversity, inclusion, and equity into our mission statement. As an organization that’s looking to advocate for all students, and be that progressive and open and safe space, we need to make sure that our members are aware that is a part of our mission and we need students to be aware that is a part of our mission.

Najee and I really want to work with the legislative branch in order to make sure they are incorporated within the explicit goals of UPUA.

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

EB: Take and appreciate every day as it is. I grew up in a Penn State family, but I never knew what I wanted to do at Penn State. As nerve-wracking as that was as a freshman, I think it allowed me to explore who I was and explore all the opportunities at Penn State.

As I said, I went to the involvement and signed up for every single thing that I could. Someone said “Do you want to go to this this weekend?” or, “Do you want to go to this meeting this week?” and I said sure. A lot of the time, as college students, we like to plan out everything. It’s OK to be uncertain, and that uncertainty usually is where you learn how to grow as a person.

OS: How do you think the coronavirus pandemic has affected Penn State students. How will your administration work to tackle issues students are facing stemming from the virus?

EB: The pandemic has affected students in absolutely every regard. I worked on alternative grading with a team of representatives in the fall and spring, and we launched a survey where we got to see a lot of student testimonials, and we grouped them into different areas. They were grouped into categories such as educational needs, financial needs, issues related to mental health, etc.

International students have faced some of the biggest challenges as a result of the pandemic, whether that be timezone differences, not being able to get access to classes or textbooks, or feeling detached from the student body, among other challenges.

One of the biggest things Najee and I want to tackle is immediate relief. When it comes to the university supporting a student, we can put up these big institutionalized pillars, but sometimes student need comes day-to-day, on the spot. So, we want to supply things like immediate mental health relief, immediate financial relief, and so on and so forth.

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

EB: I am currently taking a women’s studies class that is focused on women in the arts and the media. It’s my first women’s studies class I’ve ever taken, and a lot of the readings we do are the readings we did in high school and reading them with a different lens.

I’m also a very big fan of music, and we talk a lot about how women are portrayed in the arts and the music industry. It’s really interesting, and it has given me a different perspective on how to look at things.

OS: Where is your favorite place on campus to study or do work?

EB: It’s got to be the Business Building. The atrium and being able to go in there and look out at the Arboretum is great, and nothing can beat a Saxby’s coffee either, so it’s nice to study in there.

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

EB: I am going to choose Elizabeth Bennett from “Pride and Prejudice.” She’s a boss! When it comes to defying the norms and being able to stand your ground and also push the boundaries on things, I think she’s one of the strongest female literary characters.

She’s a really cool person who can advocate for not just herself but for others. I’ve looked up to her ever since I started reading the book.

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

EB: I used to say Pterodactyl, but I now am going to say Spinosaurus because it’s half-aquatic, and I love swimming and it also looks really cool! So yeah, big fan of Spinosaurus.

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About the Author

Owen Abbey

Owen Abbey was a Secondary Education major before he graduated from the wonderful institution known as Penn State. When he was not writing for the blog, he enjoyed rooting for the Baltimore Orioles and Ravens, supporting Penn State basketball and softball, dreaming of all of the ways he would win the TV show "Survivor," and yes mom, actually doing school work. All of this work prepared him to teach his own class of students, which was always his true passion. He still can be found on Twitter @theowenabbey and can be reached for questions and comments at [email protected]

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