Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

The McCourtney Institute for Democracy

Laura McKinney, UPUA

By Billi Maynard

I had the pleasure of interviewing Laura McKinney, the head of the University Park Undergraduate Association, the governing body for Penn State University Park students. Laura is a senior majoring in public relations and broadcast journalism major from New York. Laura spends her time on campus advocating for the student body, and has held several positions within student government. The following is an abbreviated version of our 45-minute interview.

How did you get involved in student government?

I didn’t have any intention of working in law or politics, however, as a freshman I just really wanted to get involved on campus.

What work as student body president are you most proud of?

First, my work in expanding feminine hygiene products in places such as the HUB. This was a very challenging task to get approved and I am still working on expanding these products to other buildings on campus. Next, my team and I have worked hard advocating for student needs such as housing security and relief. On this project, my team and I have worked very closely with President Barron.

Finally, one initiative I am really working towards is holistic wellness – not just bettering mental health facilities. I’ve brought up the idea of creating a place on campus where mental health and physical health are housed in the same building as they are equally important for holistic wellness.

How do you choose to lead such a high position?

It has been hard learning how, oftentimes being the only woman in the room. However, I believe that becoming a good leader means falling down and messing up a lot. Ultimately though, as a communications major, I think that communication and deliberation is a must. Delegation of tasks is also key. You have to let go at times and put trust in your team.

What advice would you give the next person in your position?

Be kind. It seems simple enough, but it can also be hard in the competitive Penn State culture. Also, always treat others in the assembly – even when they don’t respect you. Ultimately, just remember why you’re here in this position and keep your mindset right.

Regarding our national democracy, do you foresee change in our polarized politics?

I think something not so great will have to happen. Although, I’m an optimistic person and will always believe there is more good than bad in our society.