Makayla Reynolds has become a big name on campus since taking her place as the first black woman to serve as a Class President at Penn (yup, that’s first ever). In the year and a half she’s spent at the helm of Class Board 2018, Makayla has searched for new ways to leverage Class Board’s ability to change some of the more unsavory aspects of Penn’s culture. Her ego may be small, but with the impact she’s had on Penn’s campus and the surrounding community, we can’t think of anyone more deserving than Makayla of the Ego of the Week title.
Street: Your first Class Board presidential campaign was during your sophomore year. What made you want to join student government at Penn?
Makayla Reynolds: Like ninety percent of us at Penn, I was involved in student government in high school, so the idea was already in my mind. I didn’t join freshman year because I was trying to just get acclimated to Penn, which was really hard for me. But once the end of sophomore year came around, I’d noticed that a lot of people, including me, kind of saw Class Board as the kind of thing that only a certain type of person or people from certain groups joined. I decided to run because I wanted to change that persona that people ascribe to Class Board, and hopefully make it more of an inclusive representation of students who could change what we are meant to do and what we can do on campus.
Street: What was the demographic you saw on Class Board that you wanted to change?
MR: Being first gen and a minority at Penn, I didn’t see anyone like the community that I represented on Class Board. I wanted to make those groups more visible and more known, so that for all the events we have, apparel we sell and whatnot, Class Board would be more inclusive to not only that sector of campus, but other underrepresented communities as well.
Street: What are the changes you’ve made to help different communities get more access to the things that Class Board is in charge of?
MR: One thing that we’ve really tried to do is make all of the traditions that we have a lot more affordable. Obviously Hey Day and P sweaters were our big things last year, so we tried to really publicize financial aid for those for anyone who asked, with no need to go into detail or put in a tax form or anything. We wanted to make sure that everyone is able to participate in these events and traditions without feeling any financial pressure.
Another thing we’ve tried to focus on more is mental health, so we’ve done some partnerships with Active Minds and Penn Wellness, and Penn Bens, with different study breaks, and last year we did Chalk out Stigma for World Suicide Prevention Day (this Sunday, September 10th), and we’re planning something else for this year. We’re trying to plan a lot more of those types of events. I think a lot of people are quick to say, “Oh, the administration needs to do X, Y, and Z.” But for me, I see it all on us. That’s especially how I see Class Board, as a group that’s supposed to be setting the culture.
Street: For people who are still getting them mixed up, what’s the main difference between what Class Board does and what the Undergraduate Assembly does?
MA: There are actually seven branches of student government! People definitely mix up the UA and Class Board the most, though. The UA is more policy—focused, so they work alongside administrators to pass different policies—right now they’re working a lot on getting club applications a little less restrictive. Class Board is the branch of student government that focuses on working alongside students to promote cool events and, more importantly, making everyone feel included and united at Penn.
Something I’ve been trying to change in the last year is the way I think that some people see Class Board. A lot of people are like, “Oh, Class Board—you had that Smokes’ event, I got free drinks there.” And yes, we do have that, but I think the main point is to promote unity and make everyone feel comfortable. That’s why I think having a focus on mental health, especially at a place like Penn, is so important. Obviously, though, we’re not the UA. We don’t pass policies; we don’t tell CAPS or professors what to do. But going forward into this year I really want to make sure that people feel more comfortable and included at Penn than they might right now.
Street: What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced since you became class president?
MR: I guess dealing with a variety of opinions from the class on what we should be doing and how we should be doing it. And also dealing with harsh criticisms from people, and like aggressive emails of all hours of the night. But that’s not unexpected, that’s part of the job. I enjoy it, I like hearing what people have to say, I think it’s important to take into account.
Street: What do you get the most aggressive emails about?
MR: People still haven’t picked up their P sweaters. People’s parents are emailing me, asking if, like, they can buy another P sweater.
Street: People’s parents?
MR: Yea! People want to come pick up their kid’s P sweater for them!
Street: Can people still pick up their P sweaters?
MR: I mean, you can email me, but you really should have done that shit before.
Street: What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever gotten?
MR: Someone told me during my freshman summer internship, “Find a job where you’re excited to get up every day and go to work, and it’s a little bit hard to leave at the end of the day.” For me, that’s the most important thing that I’ve tried to keep in mind. I know that I need to be in a profession where I feel like I’m making a difference, where I feel like I’m actually doing something to better the community. And when I’ve had jobs where I haven’t had that, it’s so much harder to go, and it’s so much harder to enjoy it. I’ve realized at Penn that you don’t need to be in a job where you make a lot of money.
Especially being first gen, I remember thinking—and I still do this now—when I’d see people with nice cars and nice clothes I’d think, “I want that one day.” But after exploring different career paths that are very conventional for people at Penn, I realized that I don’t want that. I don’t want to do that.
Street: Where would you like to see Penn in five years, when you’re no longer here?
MR: I think that…I want Penn to be more unified. I think it’s great that we have hundreds of clubs and organizations and whatnot, but I also think that we could maybe work together more. A lot of the clubs and a lot of the people are working separately for the same purpose, so I’d love for us to be a little more unified in that, and a little more open in terms of people being comfortable speaking up about what they’re struggling with.
Street: And the most important question—what’s Amy Gutmann like?
MR: Amy Gutmann is so nice. She’s super happy, and she…that’s kind of all I have to say.
She’s very polished.
When I stop at Wawa, I’m getting…
A French vanilla iced coffee, an energy Vitamin Water, and 3 bags of apple slices.
When I graduate, I’m…
Joining the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps, then going to law school.
The song I can’t stop listening to right now is…
"Feel So Good" by A$AP Mob
There are two types of people at Penn…
People who go to Crown Fried Chicken, and people who don’t. Wait, no. People who go to Crown Fried Chicken, and people who go to Wishbone.
A secret I can share about Feb Club this year is…