DUNMORE, Pa. — Despite the significant changes to campus life over the past year, Penn State Scranton’s Student Government Association (SGA) continues to serve its crucial role as the representative voice of the student body.
Despite the restrictions put in place by the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s SGA officers — President Harshil Patel, Vice President Marissa Boyd, Treasurer Meryam Meawad, Chief of Staff Olivia Maikranz, Chief Justice Ella Maquito and Public Relations Director Sheylla Romero — are maintaining a vigorous schedule, from hosting virtual events, to investigating potential campus improvement projects, to coordinating with the Student Senate and campus clubs on addressing important student-centric issues.
“I think the fall semester went well in terms of SGA activities because we still were able to have our Monday meetings and host a few events that were well attended. Despite COVID-19, the clubs and senators took responsibility and found a unique way to connect students,” Patel said. “Our goals for the spring semester would be to have a variety of events to connect with the student body.”
“I think that the students are doing way better coping under these circumstances than we would’ve thought,” Meawad added. “A big part of that is because the administration, faculty and staff are constantly thinking of new ways to help students feel involved. They are working hard to try to still maintain campus activities, virtually, so that students can still gain that sense of motivation. Also, professors are truly working hard with students to help them maintain their great academic performance and they are being very considerate for the most part.”
At the beginning of the academic year, the officers were tasked with the challenge of effectively communicating with each other and the campus community while contending with the realities of the pandemic. For instance, their weekly executive board meetings started out as in-person affairs, but eventually migrated to Zoom.
Despite the virtual setting, the officers quickly developed a strong rapport, Maikranz said.
“Our weekly meetings have become more than a simple Zoom meeting. They have evolved from awkward silences and black screens between business to laughter and smiling faces through the screen,” Maikranz said. “We have grown to learn about each other’s lives, both academically and personally. Although COVID-19 has impacted our time with each other physically, it has also created another form of connectedness as we are all experiencing the pain of the pandemic together.”
“The meetings have been very productive as far as updating each other and constantly making sure that we are getting things done on time,” Meawad added. “We also keep in touch with each other through texting, which has been great for reminders.”
Meanwhile, Maikranz said SGA has effectively used Zoom, email and social media to keep students in the loop and address their myriad needs.
“Although some students have voiced concerns about professors assigning more work during this remote form of learning — which SGA has extensively addressed — the campus administration, faculty and staff have otherwise been immensely helpful,” Maikranz said. “And, by having the flexible accessibility of meeting via Zoom, it has been quite easy to make the students’ voices heard.”
Since the fall semester, SGA has made a concerted effort to keep students connected through hosting a series of fun events. Most events have been virtual — among them a game show and a scavenger hunt — but they also included an in-person tailgate party in the View Café celebrating the start of Penn State’s Big Ten football schedule.
As always, SGA actively partnered with the campus’ THON chapter to promote and raise funds for the annual dance marathon, which was held virtually this year yet still managed to raise more than $10.6 million for Four Diamonds to fund pediatric cancer research and support children and families fighting childhood cancer. In November, the two groups collaborated on a pre-Thanksgiving food order fundraiser done through Schiff’s Food Service. And, three of this year’s four campus THON dancers were SGA officers — Patel, Maikranz and Maquito.
Speaking of funds, members of SGA’s Student Facility Fee Committee are currently looking into several campus improvement projects, among them a potential veterans memorial garden, said Boyd, the committee’s co-chair. In addition, the committee is conducting a feasibility study geared around the possible renovation, updating and expansion of the Multipurpose Building. As part of the study, the group is soliciting feedback from students, coaches, faculty and staff on everything from how the renovated facility should be laid out to what type of amenities and equipment it should include.
As the spring semester rolls along, SGA will continue to provide “the most support and outlets for our students’ voices as we can,” according to Maikranz.
“COVID-19 has truly presented hardships in learning and enjoying academia, but we understand that we are all going through this together,” Maikranz said.
For more information about Penn State Scranton’s Student Government Association, visit https://scranton.psu.edu/student-life/student-activities/sga.