Name: Lily Wallace
Hometown: Belchertown, MA
Residence Hall: Crampton
Major: Double Major in Political Science and BDIC in Civic Engagement, Spirituality and Social Change
Minor: Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, International Relations Certificate
Occupation: RA in Crampton for defined residential community: Nuanced Social Justice Community; Peer Minister at Newman Catholic Center
Relationship Status: Single and ready to mingle! *Laughs*
Horoscope: Capricorn! I heavily identify with Capricorn culture, I’m a freaking goat-fish!
Photo by Patricia Camerota.
HC UMass Amherst: What are you involved with on campus?
LW: Mostly recently, I was appointed Under-Secretary of External Policy in the SGA, working with the Secretary of University Policy. Also, I work on campus at the Labor Management Workplace Education Program, which is a really great place dedicated to providing education to different staff members on campus. I teach ESL there twice a week and I really love it! It is really nice to meet different people that work at the university and is a great learning experience for me.
I also just got started covering news at WMUA, there are some really great folks there and I enjoy it alot. I am really about the radio, it’s super fun!
HC UMass Amherst: Aside from all of these activities you are involved in, what do you like to do in your spare time?
LW: I am actually just a full time extracurricular student! *Laughs* I love to sing; I have a guitar in my room and I love to serenade everyone, ever. I love painting too! I have always been very much into the arts, and since my classes are heavy in political theory, I don’t get the chance to interact with art as much as I’d like to. I just really love to make things.
I also love to garden! I have a ton of plants in my room.
HC UMass Amherst: It’s great that you find a balance between schoolwork and creativity.
LW: Absolutely! College is stressful, so it’s nice to be able to have a creative outlet. I also write a lot of poetry; I am really into spoken word. I’ve gone to a few open poetry readings, but it is definitely something I want to do more this year. It isn’t easy going up in front of a lot of people and saying ‘this is me, this is my authentic story.’ It feels great to have a space to do that, but it is still scary. I am making my way there!
HC UMass Amherst: How did you become involved with so many diverse activities?
LW: This sounds strange, but when people meet me they tell me that I would be perfect for ‘this job’ or ‘that position.’ Things just come into my path by meeting new people. I have been very blessed in the sense that a lot of opportunities just fall right into my lap, and I get to meet really great people.
I was in a RAP my freshman year, called Impact, and it was all about civic engagement and mindfulness practice. It was a great way to start my path in college, and is how I got involved with some of the things I do now.
Photo courtesy of Lily Wallace.
HC UMass Amherst: What originally sparked your passion for civic engagement work?
LW: In highschool I was super involved in everything! I was so heavily engaged in things and I just wanted everyone to be as engaged as I was! That is why I originally got into politics, I wanted to change the world for the better! Then as I took my political science courses, I realized that politics was really, really pessimistic! It takes a certain person to not get selfishly sucked into it all. I mean, I loved being called ‘President Wallace’ all throughout high school, but people working together means more to me.
When people claim stake in their community and have value, that means the most to me. I like to see what inspires people, and help them find what it is they are passionate about in order to become engaged and be part of something larger. When I realized how many things we are given in life, and how lucky we are to be alive, how could I not care about helping others?
HC UMass Amherst: What are one or two causes that you care deeply about?
LW: I care about so many things right now! Currently I am very into the LGBTQIA movement in the Catholic Church, and sometimes the lack thereof. I just have a lot of identities; people always say to me, “well those identities don’t go together!” Clearly they do though, as I am an example. I am the intersection of these identities, and I think that if they intersect with me then they must with other people too. I am super queer! I identify as pansexual…I am attracted to a person’s personality, not based on gender. I just appreciate the Divine inspiration in all creation.
In addition to this, I am also really into multifaith organizing too. Last year, many of my residents were in the Student Muslim Association, and I’ve had many great opportunities to work with them along with Hillel and the Baha’i students. I’ve had a lot of eye opening experiences with multifaith organizing. I think my biggest thing is spreading compassion. We can all benefit from greater compassion and understanding.
Photo courtesy of Lily Wallace.
HC UMass Amherst: Absolutely. Now to switch gears a bit, what is your favorite restaurant in Amherst?
LW: Oh that is hard! There are so many phenomenal restaurants, but I am going to have to go with Baku’s African Restaurant. The woman who runs it is the sweetest human being in the entire world, and sometimes if it is just her and I in there she will just come sit with me and we’ll talk. Her homemade sauce is like…the most amazing thing in the entire world. I can’t even tell you what is in it, but I just love it!
HC UMass Amherst: What would your ideal date be like?
LW: It really comes down to the person involved. You could be in any situation and whether or not you have a good time can depend on the person you are with. It doesn’t have to be anything super special; for me it is about people being thoughtful. Including something more personal into a date makes a big difference. I went on a really great coffee date the other day, it was just a typical coffee date but it was so much fun. You can tell when someone takes the extra step and takes initiative to make something special according to what you like. You know that they care or that they are listening.
HC UMass Amherst: If you could go abroad on a trip anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?
LW: I am Lithuanian, so I would love to go toward the Eastern European countries. I’d love to see Lithuania, Russia, and Ukraine. I am very interested in nationalism and identity politics, so I have a desire to see somewhere like Bosnia too. Knowing that a major genocide happened there, I would want to study why something like that occurred, how the people interact and what forces drive humans to behave like that.
Photo by Patricia Camerota.
HC UMass Amherst: Are you working on any big projects for this upcoming semester?
LW: Myself and another student are currently working to start a group on campus to support students who have chronic illnesses, because the campus doesn’t necessarily have something to provide that type of support. We recently got space at the Stonewall center and are looking to start holding meetings soon!
He and I both have very different chronic illnesses, but can identify with different aspects of each other’s experience. It is really unreal to try and navigate a university with an invisible disability. It is something that I am very passionate about at the moment. I was re-diagnosed with lymphoma, a type of blood cancer that affects the immune system, this past summer and I was really upset about it I wanted channel my emotions more constructively.
It is so weird being in our age group and living with this kind of illness that people would never know about. Because it is uncommon there are very few spaces to talk about it. However I knew that statistically on a campus of over 20,000 undergraduates I could not be the only one looking for a space to express my complex feelings and emotions surrounding ableism.
In our group we want to provide a resource for people to talk about the things weighing on them without feeling like they are burdening others. There are so many little things you would not think about being a challenge but that are tricky spaces to navigate. For example, when you asked me about what my ideal date is like, I’m often more concerned about when a good time to tell someone that I have cancer is than what kind of coffee to get. Like is that a third date thing?!
But we would like to provide a safe space for people who wonder those same things. It would be so helpful to talk about this with other people and to feel that comfort. A big thing for me is having open, safe places for dialogue.
I don’t want people labeling me as the girl with cancer, and telling me that I am so inspiring. I just deal with the cards I’ve been dealt. Yes I have cancer, but that disability is only a part of my identity, it is not my identity as a whole. I’m just a person walking down the street, with many complex and intersecting identities.
I was really afraid about talking about it for a while, society teaches us to be silent about our disabilities, but everyone is going through something in their life and I will keep going.
Photo courtesy of Lily Wallace.
Anyone interested in learning more about this support group may contact Lily at email@example.com.