Tim Scalona, a graduate student at the School of Public Policy, has been elected student trustee for the Amherst campus on the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees, where he plans to continue the advocacy work he did as a UMass undergrad.
Scalona, a student in SPP’s Master of Public Policy program, has been involved in activism since he first came to UMass in 2016, including through his involvement in the Student Government Association.
“I came with the idea of advocating around issues affecting first-generation and low-income students, but at that time I didn’t even have the language to describe myself as first generation and low income,” he says. “Coming from my past experience and trying to adjust to college, I saw SGA as a way to make change and represent my peers.”
Over the course of his undergraduate career, Scalona become increasingly involved in that work, connecting with diverse organizations such as the Center for Education Policy and Advocacy, campus cultural organizations, the Greek system, and campus media outlets, including as an op-ed writer for the Daily Collegian.
He decided to run for the Board of Trustees, he says, to elevate first-generation and low-income student issues to the trustee level. “There’s a lot you can do on the campus level, but you’re constrained by the funding limitations and you’re constrained by the overall bureaucracy.” Scalona’s agenda includes lobbying for the creation of a first-generation student support center on every campus in the UMass system, advocacy for unions that represent student workers, and calling for expanding support for BIPOC students and campus cultural centers. In addition to these immediate priorities, he advocates for, in the long term, a reconstruction of the Board of Trustees’ makeup, to strengthen student voices and shift more focus to student needs.
Under state law, only two of the five student trustees have voting rights — a vestige from the time when the student seats were first created, when there were only two UMass campuses. Those two voting seats rotate among the campuses, with UMass Amherst holding one this year. “This gives us leverage to have a space to speak about issues that are affecting this campus and the other ones,” such as tuition costs, Scalona said. “Having that platform is incredibly beneficial right now.”
Scalona is the third consecutive SPP student to hold the Amherst trustee seat, following Jacob Binnall (MPP ’20) and Derek Dunlea (MPPA/MEd ’21).
He received his undergraduate degree in political science, policy, journalism, and storytelling, with a minor in Spanish, this spring.
About the School of Public Policy: Established in 2016, the UMass Amherst School of Public Policy prepares students for leadership in public service. The program’s focuses include social change and public policy related to science and technology.
Contact: Maureen Turner, communications manager, School of Public Policy