A Chat with SGA Vice President Lily Wallace

Lily Wallace, a senior at UMass Amherst and the current Student Government Association vice president sat down for tea with me this Friday. Having never met her before, I was unsure of what to expect. As I approached her, a blonde with red-rimmed glasses of medium height, she struck me as a friendly, approachable person. And when I got the chance to sit down with her, I realized how many important things this powerhouse of a woman has to say. We had a varied conversation, talking about her campaign, the importance of diversity, and her favorite pizza (Black Bean Avocado from Antonio's!).

Lily is majoring in political science and BDIC in civic engagement, spirituality and social change. She also has a minor in women, gender, and sexuality studies, and an international relations certificate. She is from Belchertown, Massachusetts, and works as a resident assistant in Crampton.

Her Campus UMass Amherst: What made you want to run for vice president?

Lily Wallace: I actually didn't want to run for VP. I'm not really a public person — I prefer having the resources. I don't think titles are really relevant in the work that I do. As long as I have access to the resources that I need, I can enact the change that I want to see. This last year, Anthony [the president of SGA] ran with this guy Nick Rampone, and Nick decided he was going to China, so there was an opening for the VP position. Around eight applications came in, but Anthony reached out to me about applying for the position because of the organizing work I was doing on campus. I think for both of us, we see SGA as a great opportunity to provide students with the resources they need to become the best versions of themselves. A lot of learning doesn't happen in the classroom; for me personally, I've always been a co-curricular learner. I've learned so much from the other things I've done on campus outside the classroom — so that's how I filled the position. I'm a big believer in servant leadership. My job isn't to put on a resume, but to really serve these communities — I come from a place of wanting to build bridges.

HC: What made you want to run again?

LW: Every single year in the binder there have been issues, and people would always say, 'We need to fix this, we need to fix this,' and I sat down in a month and did it. What made me really want to continue to run again is to continue the work that I'm doing. What we're doing can't be done by other people, because if we lose this election, on March 8 we start training a new team and we have to take a step back from what we've been working at. A lot of the structures we want to have put in place that we've been taking this year to structure would get thrown to the side because we wouldn't have the time to finish implementing them. That knowledge of all these things on campus put us in the position to help people in a tangible way.

HC: Along the same lines, what's one of your priorities if you were to win the election again?

LW: For my personal position, I focus mostly on the internal projects. So underneath the SGA, there are things called agencies — such as WMUA, all of the student businesses, the Collegian, the student EMS. For me, because they are so documented in our bylaws, I think it's important that we make sure we're supporting these super student groups. It's like we've been absentee parents. There's been a lot of hate within the relationships, and at this time — because of who I am and who Anthony is — we're able to fix a lot of these relationships. We've been meeting a lot of these groups and discussing how we can support them to the best of our abilities. Other projects are restructuring what the cabinet looks like and diversifying the SGA, because all these students' experiences matter. You know, ping pong players! Knitters, crocheters, these are all identities on this campus. So how do we integrate this? I think by creating a position that can be accountable in making sure these voices are heard.

HC: If you could pick a slogan for your campaign, what would it be?

LW: We actually have a slogan for our campaign, which is that experience matters. Considering how we're re-running for our positions, we're the only two people who know what these positions entail. My job isn't glamorous — I go to six administrative meetings a day and I sit there and I fight and I hold administratrion accountable. A lot of people think Anthony and I can do whatever we want, which isn't what we do. A big thing for us is now we know what we need. Anthony and I would be nothing without our team, who does so much work for us. And our job is to hire people that will be the best fit for their position. For example, this year, sustainability is big. And someone called us out for not taking part in the sustainability projects that we do. First, that's a bold-faced lie, and second, that's not what I do. My job is to hire someone to do that effectively, and to support them emotionally and financially so they can be doing the work they need to be doing. Anthony and I come from very different backgrounds and very different political opinions, but the fact is we can work together because we both fundamentally care about students.

HC: What qualities do you think a good leader possesses?

LW: I've learned what it is. Delegation is the most important thing for an effective leader. I think it's important to empower other leaders to have the opportunity to step up and not just take on everything by yourself. And compassion — being able to empathize, listen to other people, and understand where they're coming from is crucial. It's not about what I want, it's about what's best for the student body.

HC: What do you do with a BDIC in civic engagement, spirituality and social change?

LW: What don't you do with that! A lot of the work I do around campus is about interfaith organizing, so I really got into politics because I wanted to be a poli sci major. I want to make the world a better place. I'm very engaged in my faith community. I'm also engaged in the idea that the only way we're going to get anything done is through cooperation. I really dug into creating a multifaith community on this campus, and that's one of my biggest passions. I'm Roman Catholic. I work at the Roman Catholic Center. I love my faith. I'm about it!

HC: A little bit more of the fun stuff! What is your go-to song that helps you get pumped up?

LW: I feel like recently it's been "Bad and Boujee"! It's really funny, I used the word "boujee" before the song even came out. Boujee is just, like, you have swag and you have class, and I'm completely not that. I come from a small rural town. But I always just think it's so funny.

HC: Any shows you've been watching on Netflix or movies you recently saw?

LW: Let's see ... I saw "Moana." I cried four times. Such a good movie. I love musicals, so that was really great. On Netflix, I just finished "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," which is super funny. And I'm currently watching "The People v. O.J. Simpson." I love political dramas, so that's a good one. Pretty much any Netflix original series, I'm watching!

HC: What are some of your favorite things to do?

LW: I love to paint — I'm a really big painter. Also, I had to drop my show this semester, but I'm a radio DJ! On WMUA, I run a broadway musical show tune show. I love going to all the local theater events. I love karaoke at the bar! I love spending time with all the beautiful people in my life. It's been hard this campaign season, because we've gotten a lot of negative flack, but getting kind words of love and encouragement really helps. As soon as I'm done campaigning, I'm just gonna spend a lot of time loving my friends.

Images courtesy of Lily Wallace.