I spoke with senior Liza Miller, president of University Program Board (UPB) recently. Here’s what she had to say:

How did you get involved in UPB?

So, I’m a senior this year and I actually just gave this spiel at the open house this weekend. But so my freshman year I came in and high school I was super involved in, like, so many different things, but I was, like, super burnt out and so I really wanted to get involved in just one organization and I had a really good friend who was two years older than me — and he went to my high school — and he was like, ‘Oh, are you looking to get involved?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah!’ He was like, ‘You should apply to this cool organization I’m a part of and just see’ and so I was like, ‘OK.’ So, I joined UPB, got in my freshman year — fall semester — and since then, I’ve been in a bunch of, like, leadership positions within the organization and its been an awesome, I guess, past three and a half years so far and it was awesome just to meet so many different people with different majors with different backgrounds and some of the people that are in UPB, one of our directors, she was in my interviewing group and now she’s on exec with me this year and … we’re like best friends now, we met through interviewing for UPB, so it’s pretty cool to come, like, full circle and meet so many different people that are, like, have come and gone and, like, new members that are coming in so, it’s really cool.

What other facets does UPB encompass beside concerts?

Yeah, so we have an executive board of 14 students and then we have a grad assistant and then a coordinator. So our coordinator pretty much, her full-time job is to oversee us and that we’re spending our money in the right ways and help us with decisions, but she’s also just a great resource to go to about a bunch of different other things — her name’s Anna — and then our grad assistant is usually somebody who’s in, like, a student affairs grad school program — not always, but usually they are — and her name’s Courtney this year and she’s actually a double Duke, so it’s kinda cool to have her, she went through JMU undergrad, took a year or two off and came back, so she know’s a lot about JMU, but it’s changed since then, so it’s cool to see her come full circle as well.

And then so, 16 of us total and how UPB’s kind of run is that we are split up into five different committees who do five different things and so, as you said, a lot of people think that we just do concerts or, like, things in Wilson or, like, some people think we do movies at Grafton, some people don’t, so each of our committees does something pretty different than the other one. So our one committee, Center Stage, does all the big name concerts — so two in Wilson and one in the Convocation Center each year — and then our other committee, Spotlight Sounds, does a show in TDU that’s free to all students called Spotlight Sounds Series, usually on Fridays … and they help with Madipalooza, both of those committees do because they’re more music-based and then we have our Film committee that runs all the movies in Grafton Wednesday through Saturday and they do other, like, matinees and, like, things on the weekends and shows in the Planetarium sometimes too and then we have our Spirit and Traditions committee who is in charge of, they do a lot of more, like, series events, so once a month we do Funny Freakin’ Friday, which is … a small scale comedian that comes once a month and sometimes we have, like, student openers … and then another event we do is Late Night Breakfast, which is in Festival once a month and it’s just a free breakfast for all students, usually we have, like, giveaways and, like, some type of, like, bouncy house and a DJ and then our last committee is the Special Events committee, so they do kind of, like, everything else that doesn’t fall into those four, so they bring the comedian — that’s one big thing that they do each semester  — and then they just do kind of other random events that don’t fall, as I said, in the other committees. So we’ve done, like Lip Sync Battle, we’ve done JMZoo, like, last spring we brought a petting zoo, we have Festifall … but just kind of, like, miscellaneous things that we think is like a cool way to either, like, de-stress or just another event that would be fun that, like, the students would like to come to that’s usually for free, so most of our events are free, except for, like, our comedians and our concerts that are in, like, the large-scale, like, Wilson or Convo or something like that.

What’s your favorite part about UPB?

I would have to say, there’s so many different parts that go behind, like, go in with UPB and I think the best part for me is going to the events and, like, usually when I go I’m not working them, like, I just go for support, so I’m not in, like, we wear polos for exec and, like, name tags, so I’m not in that where I get to kind of, like, stand back and see students enjoying their time there and I think the thing that we constantly remind ourselves is that we’re providing, like, something for students to come to and have fun and meet people that they might not meet in class or, like, in their dorm, like, they might find something … they share in common with and meet each other at one of our events. One of our exec members last year, she’s like, ‘They could be meeting their future bridesmaids and, like, or their husband!’ as, like, a joke, but I think it’s really cool just to see no matter the size of the event or if, you know, like, at the Convo show, being able to stand between the stage and the barricades and, like, look up into the crowd and see how passionate they are about the artist and how much fun they’re having, I think, is like we work so hard to some of these events and then, like, the results and the outcome of them is, like, my favorite part to see it all come together and also to see the members having fun too, to see how much, like, work they’ve put into it and see like, ‘I did this,’ like, ‘I was able to, like, put all this stuff together and make a decision and market this event.’ And so, I think that’s my favorite part is, like, a combination of, like, members and people at our events just enjoying themselves.

What would you say to someone who is considering UPB, but isn’t sure if they want to apply or not?

Yeah, I would definitely encourage them to apply — and I think, just, in general, I think it’s important to be a part of something bigger than yourself while you’re in college — and so, I think my plug for people who are considering our organization or just joining something in general, is just definitely go out there and join it and I was one of those people who, like, but my name on the list for everything at student org night and then kinda dwindled it down and I am just in UPB, but I think definitely it’s more than just event planning, like, it’s a very cool aspect of it and I never thought, like, this was a thing I could do until I got into UPB and was like, ‘Oh, this is what it is!’ But, I think there’s so much more to it is that it’s finding your leadership style and kinda how you communicate with others and how you can do things that make a big impact and you don’t realize it and I think, also just finding your niche and finding out who you wanna be is something that came with being in UPB and I feel like a lot of, like, coming into college, like, especially being young, I kinda had this still, like, high school on my back and so I was kinda like, ‘Oh, like, I don’t really know who I am, like, I think I do’ and then being able to meet all these people that are so genuine and true and so passionate showed me that, like, it’s cool to do that too and so, it was cool to realize that in this organization, I know, like, so many organizations that, like almost all of them share the same aspect in a different way. But, definitely if someone was interested I would give them my inspirational, you know, finding myself, my major, my friends through the whole process of UPB and, like, not being afraid to, like, put yourself out there and try something new and different.


Photo: From the Rae Sremmurd concert at the Convocation Center

Photo credit: TAD