TJ Bard leads Penn State government

PAT FRIDGEN
TJ Bard, a Greencastle-Antrim High School graduate, is president of the student body at Penn State University’s main campus. The Nittany Lion in the background is the PSU athletics mascot.

Editor’s note: TJ Bard was interviewed for this story Sunday, Nov. 6 prior to the release of the indictment by a grand jury against Penn State former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Since then, Bard has been interviewed by CNN, Fox News, ESPN, CBN, the Dr. Phil Show and other media. Efforts by the Echo Pilot to contact Bard have been unsuccessful.

TJ Bard went into Penn State politics when he saw an opportunity to take a leadership role on the University Park campus. The past year has exceeded his expectations.

Bard, a 2009 Greencastle-Antrim High School graduate, ran for Undergraduate Association student body president last spring as a sophomore. He campaigned hard with a core of 20 team members and won with 49 percent of the vote. The race drew a healthy 17 percent turnout of the 45,000 students, due in part to four people in contention. Bard garnered 3,347 votes, and the second candidate drew around 1,500.

"I started in student government as a freshman," said Bard. "The next year I got on the Student Senate. When the seniors left I saw the potential to step up. I talked to my constituents, and the administration assured me I was ready."

With a grass roots strategy, Bard and his crew used the Internet, social media and personal connections to introduce him to the student body. They eventually met with the larger clubs, such as the Greek organizations.

Bard believes that he and his vice presidential partner, Courtney Lennarz, had an edge because their campus experience "was unparalleled and the students saw that."

Since April he has been busy. The association has many accomplishments, including an expanded campus bus system from midnight until 3 a.m. on weekends for safety reasons. It also created a freshman handbook, brokered a discounted rate for graduate school test prep courses and purchased interactive clickers for students to borrow for particular classes. Some professors like them to monitor participation and record responses to questions.

The board also is investigating a very important technology. Bard and the other officers realized it was possible to digitally upload the status of dorm laundry machines online. They would like to get the automation system activated so students can check if a washer is free.

"The hope is they will do laundry more often."

The job has given Bard many perks, including flying in a private jet to Philadelphia to attend a trustees meeting. By default, he serves on many other boards, testifies before the Pennsylvania Senate on student issues, and has a role in determining how public funds are spent. He addressed 8,000 freshmen in the Bryce Jordan Center, which he considered a phenomenal experience.

"It's been a huge learning curve for me," he said. "It's such a public role that I never expected."

But something simple means more to him.

"It sounds corny, but I like when students come up to me as I walk to class to talk about their issues. I love to be able to help. Talking one-on-one is my favorite part."

If his term goes well, he plans to run for re-election. Already a novelty for becoming president as a sophomore, a second term is quite rare. He notices that students generally are engaged in the politics of their education system, and front page coverage in the university's The Daily Collegian keeps matters in the forefront.

Bard is majoring in economics with a minor in business. He will graduate in 2013 and is considering law school or a career in real estate.