Meet the Candidates: Katie Jordan and Alex Shockley
The University Park Undergraduate Association, Penn State’s student government, is holding elections on March 29th. There are two tickets competing for President and Vice-President. They are Katie Jordan (President) and Alex Shockley (Vice-President), and Samantha Geisinger (President) and Jorge Zurita-Coronado (Vice-President). A list of candidates running for all positions can be found at vote.psu.edu.
We sat down for an interview with the Jordan-Shockley campaign Tuesday to discuss their personal backgrounds, thoughts on their previous experiences serving in the UPUA, and details of their 2017 campaign platform.
Katie Jordan is a junior Public Relations and Community, Environment and Development double major, and currently serves as the Vice-President of UPUA. Alex Shockley is a junior Hospitality Management major, and currently serves as the UPUA’s Speaker of the General Assembly, as well as the Chair of the University Faculty Senate Committee on Student Life. More details on their biography, background, and campaign platform can be found at their campaign website here.
Katie Jordan is originally from Upper Darby Township, Pennsylvania. “I went through the public-school system my whole life. It’s a massive school district, there’s about 14,000 students in it.” She argued that the best thing about Upper Darby was that “it was extremely diverse. There’s about 67 different languages spoken there,” and Upper Darby high school was about “60% African-American.”
A large part of her decision to participate originally in UPUA was her prior experience serving in student government in Upper Darby: “Something that I was really about throughout all of my time in the school district was getting involved in Student Council and Homeroom Representative. When I [originally] got to Upper Darby High School, it was really massive and the way that I found my niche was through Student Council.” Katie served as Class President in all four years in her time at Upper Darby, so it’s “kind of something I’ve been into for a while.”
Another part of her decision to serve in student government was that she “came from a family of advocates.” Katie’s mom serves on Upper Darby’s School Board, and “they’ve always been really involved in the community.” When she came to University Park, she “stumbled upon UPUA at an involvement fair, and then the rest is kind of history.”
Alex Shockley grew up on the eastern shore of Maryland, right outside of Ocean City, and described his background as “kind of the complete opposite of Katie, in some regards.” Alex “grew up in a town of a population of 2,000 people, so that’s the size of Katie’s high school right there (Katie then interjected to correct that it was actually smaller).” Alex went through public school his entire life, with his mom serving as a public school teacher.
Like Katie, Alex was also involved extensively in student government, serving as President of his class for all four years of high school. Alex also served as his school’s Student Representative for the county to the Board of Education, and had a small role in the Maryland General Assembly.
Alex argued that the reason he wanted to go to a school like Penn State, that was extremely different than his home town, was because “I felt sometimes at home I was surrounded by people that had a vision that was very narrow. A lot of my friends would stay at the local college there and go into education, or farming, or local business nearby, and I definitely wanted to make an impact on the broader world and not just the shore of Maryland.”
Experience Serving in UPUA
Katie, who currently serves as the UPUA’s Vice-President, argued that the most important skill she brought to and refined in her time serving was her ability and willingness to learn: “I look back to a year ago and think of everything I’ve learned and I’m surprised my head hasn’t exploded.”
Most importantly, serving in UPUA has gave Katie the opportunity to learn about how different aspects of the University function, that other students aren’t able to, such as the “administrative structure and the Board of Trustees. That’s the opportunity student government gives you. I’ve just been feeling very lucky and blessed for this opportunity.” Moreover, Katie argues she “learned a lot about things that don’t work in UPUA, and things that do work, and things that we can improve on in the future.”
Katie also argued that the relationships she has built and maintained in her role as Vice-President will be essential to her success as President: “The executive side is so much different. You have those closer relationships with administrators… we’re always in these meetings [where] you’re representing your organization. It’s a lot of work behind the scenes… and showing who you represent and what the organization wants.” Without those pre-existing relationships, it would take longer to adapt to the role, and thus longer to move forward on implementing their platform: “A year is a very short amount of time, and to spend it transitioning [would represent] a pretty big learning curve.”
Katie’s proudest accomplishment as Vice-President, which relied heavily on the relationships she managed to build, was increasing the number of student representatives on the committees of the Board of Trustees: “There used to be just four students [on the Board] and it would rotate every year between the Vice-President of CCSG and UPUA… and then we advocated for one extra seat, and they were like ‘Why not two more?’ Student voice is really important, especially in something like the Board of Trustees where they’re not at the University everyday… and they kind of have a different notion of what goes on campus then what we have.” Adding more student representation “was an accomplishment that I was really excited about.”
Alex, who current serves as the UPUA’s Speaker of the General Assembly, argued that he learned a lot from his experience that will help him in his role as Vice-President, most importantly his style of leadership, and UPUA’s “potential to collaborate with other individuals.”
Alex described his leadership style as that of a coalition-builder, and a “person of the people”: “When I first came into UPUA as Speaker, I knew I was younger as a junior, and I don’t think any junior had ever served as Speaker, other than one. So I was trying to figure out how I wanted to lead,” and “I found out that… I need to be on the ground more and hear everyone else’s perspectives before making a decision. I need to collaborate with multiple individuals.” This leadership style helped make this year’s General Assembly “the best for UPUA collaboration. We didn’t have any groundbreaking divides, which was amazing. Sometimes it takes me a little while to make a decision, but I want to make sure I make the right one.”
Alex argued his proudest accomplishment was with regard to “the UPUA’s influence and power to influence administrative bodies such as the Faculty Senate or the Board. Between the leadership of us, and not only us, but our Steering Committee too, we’ve been able to have a greater impact on all levels. We’ve really been able to push forward initiatives this year.”
Both also spoke on barriers that they ran into when attempting to implement certain types of initiatives, and how those obstacles have also prepared them to succeed as President and Vice-President. Alex spoke on his efforts to work with the State College Borough, who has not been as willing to cooperate as other levels of state government: “We have tried to put so many initiatives through…[dealing with] downtown lighting, increased protections for nuisance property orders, and making students have to register parties. We recognized the difficulties with that,” and the two plan on continuing to work through those barriers this year to implement initiatives dealing with those problems, and others including assisting students run for local government, and making students a protected class.
Katie talked about general barries her and current-President Ford ran into when attempting to implement their platform: “I think a lot of times what you find with platforms and student initiatives in student government is that when you create a platform and you create ideas you think it’s going to be a lot simpler then it is. There’s just a lot more nuance then you would expect” when trying to implement initiatives.
Goals of Their Campaign Platform
Both argued that their platform can be broken down into three overarching themes, unified by their campaign slogan “Your Voice, Our Priority.” The first is “increasing student’s rights, which encompasses a number of initiatives across the board,” that seek to make sure “every student has equal opportunity” and “feels protected and treated fairly [both] in the classroom and downtown on a Friday night.”
The second is “sustaining a healthy Penn State,” which includes not only environmental friendliness, but also fiscal, social, and mental sustainability. The duo want individuals to “be the best Penn Stater you can be, [by] providing you [with] the resources to do that. We have a lot about resource education and expansion throughout the platform, to make sure every individual has the best opportunity.”
The last is expanding “Advocacy and Collaboration,” which Katie described as her most important goal, which prirotizes “having different perspectives heard. Student voice is really important.” A key goal of their platform is to shift the direction of UPUA to be more reflective of the priorities of normal students: “We’re trying to [ask] what do students want, what to organizations need that we can do for them, instead of trying to say to organizations ‘we think you should do this, this is going to better you.'”
The key way they seek to reach that goal is by creating an Outreach Committee that can consistently reach out to organizations and ensure that their concerns are properly heard and accounted for: “with having a better outreach system, we can say we want to help you, and we’re not pretending to know that we know the struggles you go through or the problems your organization faces. It’s really hard to know [right now] exactly what” organizations need.
In particular, Katie wants to coordinate with multicultural organizations more to realize the full potential of the All-In campaign: “This year we thought there was going to be a lot of tangible outcomes with All-In, and we’ve seen that, although it’s been a really great awareness campaign, there’s not really been results that students want to see, especially from the multi-cultural and diversity communities. [We want] to bring student leaders together from different organizations, and have a stronger mission statement of what we’re doing together with All-In. We know that [these groups] want action from All-In, but lets figure out [together] what those actions will be, instead of saying ‘this is what we’re going to do.'”
Alex spoke on the topic as well: “We didn’t want to create goals [for our diversity and inclusion initiatives] that didn’t come from the people that it was going to affect. Most of our initiatives under that section is fostering a conversation and laying the platform for conversation to be had, so that we can go in and listen and then act. The two of us can’t decide what will be best for the diversity community.”
Both also agreed that these initiatives, which seek to gather ideas from outside organizations, would help begin to make the UPUA itself a more diverse body: “I think that by creating an Outreach Committee… that will encourage more [a more diverse group of] people to get involved. I think we’re becoming more diversified, and that’s great because we’re hearing more student voices.”
Each also spoke on what initiative they would implement if they were only able to do only one. Katie reiterated her support for the creation of the Outreach Committee, while Alex touched on medical amnesty: “One resource we can offer to students is an expansion of our Medical Amnesty policy, [which] focuses on our Good Samaritan law. Here in the Commonwealth, the way that that works is that the individual calling [in the case of a medical emergency] has protection from criminal charges, however the individual you’re calling for doesn’t. We don’t want a student to be questioning [whether endangered student wants to face the criminal charges] when we’re considering student safety. It’s a life in their hands, and every student life matters at Penn State. I think it would truly make a difference.”
“Why should students vote for you?”
Katie: “I think students should vote for Alex and I because we are passionate, dedicated, and we’re willing to listen to you. We’re willing to listen to your voice, and that’s clear throughout our platform. We know things are feasible, we know things are attainable, and we’re willing to use the relationships we’ve established in the past and the connections we have to make that happen.”
Alex: “Not only with our passion, but we have the experience that’s there and needed. Katie and I both offer these unique perspectives where we know and recognize its not just our duty as potential President and Vice-President of the student body, it’s the UPUA’s, and it’s our duty to make sure that every student feels equally treated and knows that our voice is being heard. So that’s why we have the campaign motto ‘Your Voice, Our Priority.’ We want every student to feel ensured that their being represented through UPUA this year.”
Be sure to check out our Election central page for more UPUA election coverage.
Photo Credit: Jordan-Shockley Campaign