Name: Mara Scallon
Hometown: Newtown, CT
Major: Environmental Science with a concentration in Environmental Geology
Minors: Marine Studies; International Affairs
Student Involvement: DivestNU, Husky Environmental Action Team (HEAT), TERRA Society, College of Science Peer Tutor
Meet this week’s Campus Celebrity, Mara Scallon. If she’s not running along the Charles River training for the Boston Marathon, she’s participating in club meetings that last until the wee hours of the night. Mara became an avid environmentalist her senior year of high school and has been advocating for the environment ever since. If you ask her why, she’ll candidly say, “Well the planet isn’t going to save itself!”
Most recently she was chosen to form part of Northeastern’s first-ever Social Impact Council along with 12 other students, both undergraduate and graduate. The council, announced by President Aoun during the State of the University, is expected to review issues of social impact and how they relate to Northeastern’s activities and engagements. Her Campus sat down with Mara to hear more about her involvement and hopes for the council.
First of all, congrats on getting on the council. Could you tell me a little bit more about it?
The Social Impact Council (SIC) came about as a result of a lot of hard work on part of the Student Government Association and different student groups on campus including DivestNU, of which I am a part. It also came about from a collaboration with the President’s Office. So the formation of this council was announced in November last semester during the State of the University event. But it wasn’t until this semester that members were actually nominated and appointed to the council. We just had our first meeting and because it’s the first time this council has ever met, we’re trying to figure out exactly how we are going to tackle different issues and what those different issues might be.
So, what exactly is the purpose of the council?
It’s exciting because we have an open-ended task from President Aoun, which is to create this council and evaluate issues. Now as far as whether this means the council would be offering recommendations in the form of policy changes or other actions, we’re still trying to figure out exactly what that will be. It’s definitely something that we are eager to do over the next few weeks because there are a lot of issues that we do want to tackle. So I guess long-answer-short, right now our main task is to figure out what our future tasks will be.
What issues are going to be discussed?
Well there’s a wide range of issues that were proposed. Looking around at all of the different people who were at the table in the first meeting, it was exciting to see people who are from all different student organizations. There are grad students, law students, and professors from Bouvé, to name a few. But they all have different perspectives and different issues that they are interested in. I would expect some of our future topics to evaluate to include campaigns already being run on campus: divestment from fossil fuels, a $15 minimum wage for on-campus workers, talking about recruitment and retention for both students and faculty of color, and looking at Northeastern’s impact on the neighborhoods around us.
Do you think this council is both necessary and important?
There is definitely a need for this council, mostly because the university lacks a forum for students to be engaged in some of these higher-level decisions. Right now we have a lot of different student groups, some of them are working on the same issues. Often the groups are continually coming back to the administration and saying, “We believe this is an important issue for you to address” but the university is having some issues with buying in or taking action on it because there isn’t high-level representation by students – we do have SGA but we have no students on the Board of Trustees, and we lack a student advisory board or an equivalent. Hopefully SIC offers a way for these issues to be worked on in a way they currently aren’t. My main concern for SIC is that it ends up being entirely student-driven and isn’t actually integrating the perspectives of professors and administrators and staff. We need everyone on board to continue making progress.
What will be your role in the council?
We are still trying to figure out specifically what the council is even doing, let alone how each of us will independently contribute. But as you might imagine, I am quite interested in the issue of fossil fuel divestment and will definitely be working to get the council to evaluate that and see what we can do to move that campaign forward.
What do you hope to achieve? When should we start expecting results?
I think this semester will be interesting because as with any new council or group, that first little bit of getting it off the ground is always the most awkward time when you might not accomplish as much as you would like to. But I’m hoping by the end of this semester we will certainly have some good dialogue started on a lot of these issues. I would say between this semester, working through the summer, we could probably start seeing some real discussion, and maybe policy changes starting in the fall.
Honestly, I’m really hoping that SIC isn’t going to be another way for us just to talk about things that need to change but instead it will offer a way for these changes to actually take place. There has already been significant student activism and engagement on certain issues and it is time that these much-needed changes actually happen. I personally would like to see higher-level collaboration than what currently happens between students and the administration.