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The Student Body President

The Blog of the UPUA President

Keirans Featured In Northeast Times

The premier newspaper of Northeast Philadelphia ran a piece entitled “Welcome to College Life, Mr. President.” Below you can find the article.

Welcome to College Life, Mr. President (The Northeast Times) — By Tom Waring, Times Staff Writer

After graduating from high school in 2006, Gavin Keirans attended the summer session at Penn State and decided he wanted to get involved with university life.

Before the end of his freshman year, he was running for president of the University Park Undergraduate Association. He finished second in a six-way race, losing by just 124 votes. His running mate was a fellow freshman and St. Joseph’s Prep graduate, Mike Wallace, of Bustleton.

“We did all right,” he said. “We came close to winning.”

While he didn’t win the UPUA post, he did become executive director of Safeguard Old State, a new student advocacy group.

In addition, he’s a disc jockey on 90.7 FM, “The Lion.” He also worked as the EA Games ambassador for the university. A business management major, he’s been on the dean’s list three out of four semesters.
When it came time to file for the UPUA elections this spring, Keirans again threw his hat in the ring. He selected Valarie Russell, of San Diego, as his running mate.

The Keirans/Russell ticket handed out countless pieces of campaign literature, met with as many students as possible and reached out to the Greek community, since there were no fraternity or sorority members on the ballot. The duo earned endorsements from numerous groups, ranging from the Penn State Rifle Club to United Students Against Sweatshops.

On election day, March 26, the campaign played a non-stop rap song from the start of classes at 8 a.m. to the time the polls closed at 10 p.m.

In the end. Keirans/Russell ran away with the four-way race, piling up 52 percent of the vote. The new president and vice president were sworn in to office a week later.

Keirans, 19, is excited about heading an association that represents 36,000 undergraduate students and more than 700 clubs.
“It’s such a huge campus,” he said. “You can really affect a lot of different things.”

Keirans has completed his sophomore year and is back home on Lindsay Street in Somerton. He’s the son of Gus and Mary Keirans and has a brother, A.J., and two sisters, Shannon and Taylor.

While most students try to line up jobs and internships in the summer, Keirans has the unpaid UPUA post on his mind.

“I’m giving my full effort to this,” he said.

Keirans, who attended Watson Comly and Julia Masterman elementary schools before going to St. Joe’s Prep, likes to stay active. In high school, he played football, was captain of the rugby team and served as a retreat leader.

The UPUA position — which once offered a full scholarship — promises to keep him busy. He’d be eligible to serve a second year, if he runs for and wins re-election.

The new government has moved into its office in the HUB-Robeson Center, has chosen its committee chairs and made its executive appointments. Wallace is part of the team as a business representative for the UPUA and a student member of the University Faculty Senate.

Keirans has already attended a university Board of Trustees meeting, which was preceded by dinner at the home of Penn State president Graham Spanier. He’s also successfully lobbied to lower a facilities fee for students from $100 per semester to $50.

The Daily Collegian, a frequent critic of past student governments, has editorialized that the new UPUA shows promise.

“We’re off to a strong start,” Keirans said.

Keirans, who lives in an off-campus apartment, will return to school in time for the summer session, which begins on July 2. He’ll take an English class.

Also this summer, he will meet with Damon Sims, the university’s new vice president for student affairs. He’s also listened to advice from Spanier, the university president.
“It’s just a start, but it’s a positive relationship,” he said.

There is plenty on the agenda and wish list for the new president. He is working with the State College Borough Council to establish a mediation team for student/landlord disputes over utilities and other matters.

The UPUA wants to hire an attorney who would provide free legal advice to students facing underage drinking and other charges.

The student government is teaming with the university bookstore and information technology department, along with Barnes & Noble, to create an online textbook swap.

One specific issue Keirans is working on is trying to keep the 70 members of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity in their house after having its charter suspended by the national chapter.
In mid-August, the UPUA will host a conference of the Association of Big Ten Students.

As for the ever-increasing tuition rates and the state’s appropriation, Keirans takes part in rallies and events, but acknowledges the UPUA has limited influence in that area.
“We try and address it, but we have to focus on day-to-day, smaller things where we can make an impact,” he said.

By the time all undergraduates report back to school in August, it will be time for football season.
Legendary coach Joe Paterno is 81 and entering the final year of his contract, with an extension uncertain. Keirans said Paterno is about more than just winning football games.

“He’s the image of Penn State,” he said. “If the school loses him, it will take a hit in fund-raising.”
On pace to graduate in the spring of 2010, Keirans is thinking of a double major, adding labor and employment relations to his business management studies.

After graduation, he wants to attend law school and become engaged in Philadelphia politics.
“I’d like to come back and be mayor at some point,” he said.

Right now, he’s having fun at Penn State.

“It’s an amazing school in a great town. There’s a great social environment and a lot of chances to unwind and party,” he said. “It’s been a great two years so far and I hope I have two more great years.” ••

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