As a Student Government Association senator, Lisa Degou sat on the stage in October 2015 when Jacquie Moloney was inaugurated as the university’s first woman chancellor.
Moloney and then-student Trustee Amanda Robinson inspired Degou to envision her own possibilities as a future leader.
“When the chancellor was inaugurated, it showed me everything I wanted to do in my next three years here,” says Degou. “I wanted to lead the best I can.”
Now Degou is a senior and the outgoing SGA president. She and other members of the SGA executive board meet with Moloney and her cabinet every month to negotiate for student interests, from holding the line on fee increases to improving advising and increasing mental health resources.
“Student government always interested me,” Degou says. “I wanted to improve things that I saw could be improved.”
Degou almost missed that opportunity. Growing up in Lowell, she’d hoped to go somewhere new for college. But her mother lost her job during Degou’s senior year of high school – and UMass Lowell offered her a great financial package. She planned to come here for one year and then transfer to a private university in Boston.
Getting involved with the SGA right away changed her mind, as did her fellow students.
“I fell in love with all the opportunities and the diversity here,” she says.
Degou also loved her small political science classes and seminars, especially with Asst. Prof. Angelica Duran-Martinez and Assoc. Prof. Joshua Dyck.
“I felt like the faculty was the best. And it was really good to start learning how to argue both sides of the aisle right away,” she says.
Degou says learning to consider other points of view has helped her be a better leader of the SGA, whose members span the political spectrum.
All the debate practice is also preparing her for a career as a prosecutor. She has interned at the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office, and she’s also involved in local politics: She’s campaigning for Lori Trahan, a candidate in the Democratic primary for U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas’ seat who’s running on a platform of equity for women.
Sometimes, though, Degou needs a break from politics and debates. So she’s double-majoring in math.
“In math, there’s only one right answer,” she says. “And it sets me apart when I apply to law schools.”
That’s a task she’s saving until after graduation, when she will apply to law schools in Boston and Washington, D.C., while working.
“It would have been really, really hard to be a good SGA president while studying for the LSAT and applying to law schools,” she says.