Leads and Learns Through Passion
“I try to do things that I feel really passionately about,” said senior Angela Ross.
This year, those passions have led her to become a resident assistant and the vice president of Youth Exploring Passion, a mentoring program for pregnant and parenting teens. She’s also a member of the Order of the Torch, a group of 12 students who exemplify Trojan excellence.
Ross was able to get her first leadership experience in the queer community as the president of Trojans for Equality, an organization that originally formed to advocate against Proposition 8.
“Having a leadership role allowed me to learn so much about myself, my strengths and the stuff I needed to work on,” Ross said. “It solidified my desire to stay involved in the queer community and to create these spaces with other like-minded people.”
She continued developing her leadership skills as the director of Queer and Ally Student Assembly (QuASA), part of the Undergraduate Student Government’s Program Board, which provides student-run programming for the entire campus community. QuASA programming traditionally includes Coming Out Month, the Drag Show, Gender Justice Month, Pridefest, Second Chance Prom and many other highly anticipated events.
Currently a resident assistant (RA) at Parkside International Residential College, Ross is glad she waited until her senior year to take on the position. Although she was concerned about being an RA on a floor where not everyone was going to be queer or allied, she has learned a lot about what to expect.
“Unless I’m working with an LGBT nonprofit, I am going to be working and interacting with straight people,” she said. “It was important for me to use the tools I learned from the queer community in a space that wasn’t automatically accepting and open to those ideas.”
Vincent Vigil, director of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Resource Center, said Ross has been an excellent activist and educator in each of her leadership roles.
“She’s very comfortable within the LGBT community, so it’s easy for her to advocate and educate in front of them,” Vigil said. “But when she’s around the greek system or Order of the Torch or even her residents, she still has the same level of advocacy and education.”
A first-generation college student from Upland, Calif., Ross is double majoring in sociology and economics. It had always been her plan to continue in academia, and she participated in USC’s McNair Scholars Program, a federally funded initiative that provides funding and support to students from first generation, low-income and historically underrepresented backgrounds with the goal of diversifying the American professoriate.
As a McNair Scholar, Ross spent a summer doing research on undocumented queer activists involved with California’s Assembly Bill 540, which allows certain undocumented students to pay in-state tuition. She was invited to present her research at the Eastern Sociological Society’s conference in Boston in March.
“I really enjoyed doing my research, but I feel like I need to be more hands on,” Ross said.
Now, Ross plans to take a year off before going to graduate school in order to consider her next step.
“I’m open at this point,” Ross said. “I’m really adaptable as long as I feel supported by the environment I’m in. I’m thinking about public policy or social work. I definitely want to continue working with the population that I’ve focused on throughout my time at USC.”