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Welcome to Penn, freshmen and transfer students. Over the next few weeks, you will have a lot of opportunities to start choosing the courses, campus spaces and student groups that will come to define your experience here. Penn has hundreds of clubs that span practically any interest anyone could have, so it can be overwhelming deciding what you want to pursue.  

I have been a part of the Undergraduate Assembly, Penn’s legislative branch of student government, since around this time my freshman year. The UA has allowed me to develop as a leader, given me a platform to work on initiatives that have a major impact on student life, connected me to a broad range of administrators and students, and, most importantly, introduced me to people who are now some of my best friends. I can’t imagine my life at Penn without the UA.  

This all started four years ago with an election. The UA and the class boards are the only groups at Penn whose membership is selected by the student body. The class boards are responsible for fostering class and school spirit. They put on Penn’s greatest traditions, like Hey Day, Skimmerfest, Feb Club and much more. 

Now all of you have a shot at running for the UA, the 2020 Class Board or both.

Class-wide and school-wide elections are a lot of things: exciting, exhausting, chaotic, draining, social, inspiring and often fun. The only thing you shouldn’t perceive them as is intimidating.

It doesn’t matter where you come from, what your background is or whether or not you were involved with student government in high school. Every type of person has been and can be successful in Penn Student Government. The UA and the 2020 Class Board need to be as diverse as the whole undergraduate student body in order to best serve it. The Nominations and Elections Committee, which runs our elections, provides scholarships to cover the costs associated with running to those who need them. Any full-time new student can be a candidate.

You can achieve so much as a member of the UA or the 2020 Class Board. Whether or not you decide to get involved in either of these groups should be based on your interest in our work, not your perception of what it’s like to run in an election. Even if you don’t ultimately win, participating in a Penn election and encouraging others to vote is a formative and usually entertaining experience. If you do win, your decision to run may become the most important and impactful choice you make while at Penn. 

For information about running for a position in this year’s New Student Election, visit Candidate forms are due on Wednesday, Sept. 14.

Good luck to those of you who decide to run. As a recent Penn commencement speaker once said, do not throw away your shot.

Kat McKay is a senior in the College studying Economics, and the Undergraduate Assembly president. 

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