Danielle Di Scala is a fourth year studying political science and the current vice president of USG (Undergraduate Student Government). Our conversation was a brief discussion of her time at USG, her leadership, her identity, and her future. Believe or not, this is a condensed version of the interview.
V: How do you look back on your college career? Do you have any regrets, anything you would have done different?
D: I don’t think I do, and I think that’s just because a lot of what I’ve done in college or have had the opportunity to do are things I never pictured myself doing and I just stumbled into a lot. I kind of questioned whether I wanted to come here the summer before, I was kind of thinking there’s no way I’m going to be away from my family, there’s no way I want to be this far from home. So to go from having that mentality where I thought that my experience is going to be horrible to finding a home very quickly just with friends in my dorm…I didn’t do student government in high school and I regretted that, so why not do that, and I ended up getting involved after being in USG; I worked on a campaign in USG, got really attached to mental health policy, and then stumbled my way into that type of thing as a Senator and Deputy Director of Health and Safety. All these things were never things I planned for myself.
V: What are you proud of accomplishing during your time in USG?
D: I think a lot of the accomplishments I’m most proud of are from this year. I think first and foremost Gerard and I have very much accomplished trying to make us a more inclusive environment than we have been in recent years and being able to take that criticism from the campaign just knowing it’s not that hard to reach out to different groups. Its two facets, being inclusive while also focusing on the members who are already involved and empowering them to work on project and giving them things to do. I think making sure things aren’t only getting done with Gerard and I by making everyone involved so things aren’t only being done at the top, allows almost everyone to say they have made change at OSU.
V: What is the dynamic of being a woman in USG?
D: I think what’s really helped me is seeing past female leaders in this role and knowing a couple of years ago for example Celia Wright, first female USG president and vice president team. She was quoted in some article saying it was hard for her because she had no one to look up to in the past, it was all previously men. She didn’t necessarily find herself thinking she deserved a seat at the table because you never saw girls run for USG president. I think I’ve been very luck where I’ve had a lot of female mentors in USG. That’s been very empowering almost and I don’t think its [sexism] has been as much as an issue for me as much as the past.
V: What do you think the limit of USG is?
D: We can’t control the timing of things. I think USG gets a lot of flak, and rightfully so if you don’t know the process. We get a lot of flak where we run on something and look a year later and we don’t accomplish eighty percent of those things. So I think the limit is we don’t control the time tables. So I think it’s unfortunate we don’t control that aspect, but I don’t think a lot people realize student government here, I don’t want to say gets more respect from administrators, but they do give us a lot of credit and freedom. Most schools don’t have shared governance, where students sit on University Senate, so they don’t even have voices and votes to make those decisions. So while there are limits, I think we have a lot more reach than most schools.
V: Are there things in USG you recognize you can’t achieve as an organization?
D: Can achieve?
V: Can’t. Can’t achieve. And are there different methods…would you use an outside organization to achieve that change?
D: I think that collaboration with outside organizations is important because the one thing USG cannot do it alone, especially on a campus this size because our reach is not very far. We would love to be OUAB with thousands of Twitter followers, we would love to have that reach. And when we have our town halls, we would love people to show up, and we would love to have that engagement, but unfortunately – and I don’t think USG can’t accomplish that – but I think that alone as a body that’s nearly impossible to do and that’s where you need outside organizations and that’s where USG has a very crucial responsibility because that’s where you mobilize the campus and we can’t do that ourselves.
V: What’s up with divestment? What’s going on there? How does USG feel about it?
D: The way divestment could happen is through general assembly if it comes up again. This new general assembly will get to debate and decide, so I wouldn’t have much of a role in that other than chairing that meeting. USG wouldn’t be able to say yes divestment is happening. I haven’t been asking what’s going on with divestment, but divestment groups could utilize the ballot initiative process of campaigns where it could come up as a ballot initiative and the student body would vote on it. Regardless of your personal opinion, it would be a resolution like any other, so I try not to make it this bigger than us issue. It’s an important issue so we have to treat it like any other and give it—
V: Its due diligence.
D: Yeah as we would any other resolution.
V: Looking back at your college experience, where did you feel greatly challenged? Was it personally, academically, where is that in your college career? For me that was my sophomore year, I was still in engineering and didn’t like it. I had some mental health issues and wasn’t depressed…I don’t know it was a weird time in my life.
D: I would definitely say that’s been this semester for me. I feel like this year has been so dichotomous. I’ve loved the experiences I’ve had, I’ve loved what I’ve gotten to work on. This is an experience I would say yes to, but I think having this responsibility it’s not the smallest of commitments, it does take up a bit of time. You can’t put school first in this situation. It’s hard to put your post grad plans first and this role is something that really of defines your year. I knew what I signed up for but there are situations, especially in these last two weeks where there are situations beyond your control. There are times you think you’re going to write that paper due tomorrow, but then something comes up and your whole night becomes okay how are we reacting to this problem? And you have to be aware of that when you enter the job and put it first. So while it’s been great to have this job, it’s made it hard to strike a balance with school life, private life, professional life which is okay.
I always feel like I have to be excelling in whatever I’m doing and this year has made me realize maybe I should spread some of that out. I planed to go to law school directly after this year, but haven’t had the time to apply to schools after taking the LSAT. This semester has been a lot of what do I want out of life? And this hasn’t happened to me and I know a lot of people have this early on. All through college I’ve loved my major, wanted to go into politics, wanted to go into law, but now I’m thinking maybe not rush. Seeing how my timeline may not lineup this semester has been the struggle and it is not even a bad thing, but I’ve had to make a couple of adjustments.
V: What do you want people to know about USG? That’s a loaded question, there’s a lot to it.
D: I want people to know USG genuinely cares about helping students and sometimes that gets lost for reasons that are valid or not. I think people sometimes don’t see the direct effects of what we do and don’t necessarily see progress from us. That’s why we try to increase the transparency. We are always working on things. We do have our flaws and it’s important to call us out on those flaws, but we do care about the students.
V: What do you want people to know from your time being in USG? What you’ve done personally? Your legacy?
D: The work has lead me to this place. The roles and positions were not what drove me, it was the work. And I think that’s something I want people to know or I want to remember. It was the issues I got to work on that’s kind of what motivated me. A lot of people don’t see that…they see the power and that this looks good on a lot of resumes. I can honestly say I did this for honest reasons. And the legacy I want to leave behind—
V: So what’s your dream?
D: My dream? That’s a very loaded question.
V: Hey, I usually start my conversations off with that, so you got off easy.
D: I would say that I can’t give you specifics with the place I’m in, but I think my dream is to just be happy. And I know I want to be successful and I don’t know what that is yet but I want to be successful and happy. I think what this whole experience has taught me is success is important, and experience is important, ambition is important, but it doesn’t mean anything if you’re not happy. So my dream is to always be in the state where I’m making an impact on people around me, but also having fun doing it.