The passions of USC senior Angela Ross have led her to become a resident assistant (RA) and 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 as 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 to develop her leadership skills as director of the Queer and Ally Student Assembly (QuASA), part of the Undergraduate Student Government’s Program Board, which provides student-run programming for the campus community. QuASA programming traditionally includes Coming Out Month, the Drag Show, Gender Justice Month, Pridefest, Second Chance Prom and other anticipated events.
Currently an RA at Parkside International Residential College, Ross is glad she waited until her senior year to take the position. Though she was concerned about being an RA on a floor where not everyone was going to be gay or allied, she has learned a lot about what to expect.
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.”
Added Ross: “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.”
A first-generation college student from Upland, Calif., Ross has a double major in sociology and economics. It had always been her plan to continue in academia, and with a goal of diversifying the American professoriate, 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.
As a McNair Scholar, Ross spent a summer doing research on undocumented activists involved with California’s Assembly Bill 540, which allows certain undocumented students to pay in-state tuition. She has been invited to present her research at the Eastern Sociological Society’s conference in March.
“I really enjoyed doing my research, but I feel like I need to be more hands on,” Ross said.
Now, she plans to take a year off before going to graduate school and considering 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.”