College gives lots of students great opportunities to become student leaders. Many campuses have tons of student organizations to choose from! MASSPIRG Students is a statewide, nonprofit, student run advocacy group that works to combat issues that affect students along with the general public. The MASSPIRG Chapter Chair at UMass Amherst is Jarrett Taylor, a political science major going into his senior year.
Jarrett told us all about his experience being Chapter Chair and the Statewide Vice Chair for MASSPIRG.
Q: What inspired you to enter this position/run for office?
A: While at school, I wanted to involve myself in something that both aligned with my interests as a political science major and actually had an impact. MASSPIRG offered an internship in which I could start by registering my peers to vote, so I saw it as a perfect fit. Once in the organization I was inspired by the passion of my fellow student leaders so I decided to run for leadership positions. The more I have gotten involved the more I have garnered respect and adoration for advocacy and making social change.
Q: In your own words, how would you describe your role?
A: My current position as Chapter Chair sees me overseeing the campaigns my fellow student leaders are running. Together with our executive committee and campaign coordinators we are running three main campaigns. These include committing UMass Amherst and MA as a whole to 100% clean renewable energy through the 100% Clean Act in Boston, along with fighting hunger and homelessness and making college more affordable.
In addition to my role as Chapter Chair, I also serve as the Statewide Vice Chair where I use my broader experience as a student advocate to help drive our wider organization towards the same goals by building the necessary skills in my fellow students to deliver results on our campaigns.
Q: What goals would you like to accomplish while in your position?
A: I have two main goals for both my positions: gaining solid campaign victories and strengthening the power of student advocacy in general. On things like our 100% Renewable Energy campaign I want to make strides and eventually accomplish our goal of getting college campuses to committee to 100% clean energy and pass the 100% Clean Act.
In a broader sense, I also want to make sure my fellow students know that they can make their voices heard. That they can use the power of advocacy to exert pressure on decision makers so that our interests can be heard.
Q: What platforms do you use to connect to students?
A: Since moving to the remote world, during the pandemic we have altered our outreach techniques to rely upon things like a heavier social media presence and hosting virtual events like guest speaker panels, phonebanks and outreach events. We also morphed some of our in-person tactics, like entering virtual classrooms, to make announcements about the work we are doing. Any idea that would allow us to connect to more students we have been and will always be more than open to.
Q: If you could be remembered for one accomplishment during your time in this position, what would that be?
A: Helping to build other student advocates so that they know they can develop the skills to make a genuine impact on whatever they care about.
Q: Do you have any aspirations to continue your work beyond your college days?
A: There is no way that I will not use the skills I have already and will continue to develop in my time with MASSPIRG. Whether I continue my work in the nonprofit sector or another political arena, I know that the tools and knowledge I have gained in my internship will always help me push to create change.
Q: What was the moment you realized your work was making an impact on others?
A: The first time I registered someone to vote.
Q: What’s something about yourself that might surprise people?
A: I am very laid back.
Q: It’s easy to assume that those in positions of leadership ‘have it all together’. In your experience, is this a true assumption?
A: Yes, this is an easy assumption that I have made multiple times. After getting to know students in leadership outside of the work we do together, it becomes clear that we are all just human and trying to do our best. Nobody has it all together and that is not a bad thing.
Q: What has been your biggest struggle during your time as both a leader/role model and full-time student?
A: Finding time to sit back and reflect on everything I am doing.
Q: What advice can you give to other students striving to take on a role of leadership?
A: Do it. The skills you learn, the people you meet, and things you can accomplish make the added stress worth it. The earlier we take on roles that allow us to create change, the earlier that change can be created.
Q: While we all know that positions of leadership look great on resumes, in what other ways has your position benefitted you?
A: In so many ways. One of the best things has been meeting other leaders who care just as much as you do. It has also given me insight into just how much goes into doing something that may look easy.
Take for instance: running a meeting. The skills necessary to plan and facilitate so that the goals of the meeting are accomplished take time to develop. I have also learned to trust and push people. We are all capable of more than we think so letting somebody else take the reins while also encouraging them to do so can benefit everybody.
Q: What is your favorite moment from your time in this position?
A: It’s the little things, so riding around UMass Amherst on a golf cart while yelling at people to go vote has to be the best.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I am going to be continuing my education by pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Policy.
Jarrett Taylor continues to lead his community at UMass Amherst and his experiences encourage so many other students to step up and do the same. It’s never too late to accept a leadership opportunity!