Bianca Cseke | The DePaulia
DePaul’s Student Government Association held the seventh session of its Civic Engagement and Social Action Series this week via Facebook Live on Tuesday.
SGA President Alyssa Isberto and PR Coordinator Arantxa Reyes interviewed Brianna Catalinotto, the Social Change Chair for the DePaul Activities Board (DAB).
DAB plans a variety of events on campus from large festivals at the end of the year to smaller activities such as laser tag and mini golf. Catalinotto’s committee, Social Change, focuses on other events.
“My committee, Social Change, we focus a lot on activism, multiculturalism and current events that are taking place,” Catalinotto said.
Some of the events Catalinotto has planned that relate to these topics include Listen Learn Change and On Wednesdays We Wear Pink, with the organization Equal Hope which focuses on disparities among those with breast cancer, and a collaboration event with the DePaul Alliance for Latinx Empowerment (DALE) about el Día de los Muertos.
When asked about her experience managing DAB Social Change while being a college student, Catalinotto said she is interested in creating more multicultural events as well as including other cultures.
“It’s interesting when I came into this role because I really wasn’t sure how I could do it because I really wanted to do more multicultural events and just having more cultures be involved,” Catalinotto said. “My focus really has just been working with on campus [and] off campus organizations and making sure that their voices are heard.
Catalinotto added that it takes “planning” but also discussed some of the challenges she has faced.
“It’s just planning and just hoping for the best I mean that’s what we’ve been doing, and it’s been going really well other than that,” Catalinotto said. “It’s just hard I’m not going to lie dealing with school and just having a lot of schoolwork but also making sure that I’m doing an event correctly.”
When asked how DAB’s Social Change Committee has continued working in areas related to civic engagement and social action during the pandemic, Catalinotto said DAB is ensuring it follows the university’s covid-19 guidelines, holding its events online.
“It’s taken some time to adjust and making sure that everything is going by the school’s guidelines and strictly all of our events are online, but just like making events that people can relate to that’s been my goal,” Catalinotto said. “One of my first events was a mental health event with HPW – Health, Promotion and Wellness – so just talking about mental health.”
Catalinotto added that she wants to provide students with resources that can help them during these challenging times citing an event called “Listen, Learn, Change” in which DAB collaborated with SGA and Chicago Votes to provide students with resources and information about voting.
“Just making sure that people have some resources they can go to because it’s hard currently and it’s hard when we’re not in a pandemic to find these resources,” Catalinotto said. “I’m really hoping that people are taking these opportunities and seeing how important this is and especially when I did ‘Listen Learn, Change’ which was with SGA, I also had Chicago Votes and they supplied a lot of resources [with] how students can get more involved with voting and just having a better understanding [about] voting within a pandemic or on your first election.”
When asked what advice she would give to individuals in ensuring that their voices are heard, Catalinotto said social media is a useful platform for people to use to get their message across and ensure their voice is heard.
“It’s hard no matter what situation whether it’s political or just in general it’s hard to have your voice out there especially in a pandemic or just like in general,” Catalinotto said. “I mean at this point, I think one of our biggest resources for the Millennial or Gen X generation[s] is basically social media is one of the biggest platforms we can use because there are voices from across the country, across the world and you can have your voice go all over the place with just one simple tweet or one simple share.”
Catalinotto explained the importance of utilizing social media in spreading “awareness” about current issues happening across the globe, though some problems still exist with social media.
“I think we should implement more social media and that is hard still because a lot of minority voices are still not being heard, and I think it’s more important that we bring more awareness to everything that’s happening currently in the world whether that’s the Black Lives Matter movement or just voting in the current upcoming election within the next two weeks,” Catalinotto said.
Catalinotto emphasized the importance of small actions on social media as well.
“I think… just small actions count too, whether that’s bringing awareness to an organization and saying, ‘Oh I donated’ or just… sharing just a simple Instagram post,” Catalinotto said. “I think just simple tasks like that can make bigger… change in the future.”
When asked how individuals can engage in conversations with individuals who have a different mindset or views, Catalinotto emphasized the importance of individuals educating themselves on different issues.
“You have to just take small steps about educating yourself, reading different articles about a certain topic that you want and just making sure that you don’t have a bias towards it and that you’re supportive on all ends and if you disagree with someone you can simply say ‘Yeah, I disagree with your point, but I hear you,’” Catalinotto said. “I think that’s one of the most important things that you can say that you understand where this person’s coming from and you acknowledge what they’re saying but you also don’t agree with it.”
When asked why she believes it is important for DAB to engage in social action initiatives in the ways that it has, Catalinotto cited the size and scope of the organization.
“The DePaul Activities Board — I mean, everyone kind of knows them… we’re the biggest event planning group on campus,” Catalinotto said. “I think we have so many outlets that we can bring forward to a lot of DePaul students no matter [the] grade they’re in because we have so much range with our attendants whether it’s freshmen, juniors, graduate students we have so many opportunities and I think it’s important on our half to bring to people resources, to talk about topics that we may talk about but go to a deeper extent and just acknowledging all the things that are currently going on and not ignoring them.”
When asked which social action event was her favorite, Catalinotto said the event called On Wednesdays We Wear Pink.
“I think On Wednesdays We Wear Pink, which is about breast cancer that’s [Wednesday] and Equal Hope I recommend everybody to look into them,” Catalinotto said. “They are a great organization in the Chicagoland area that talks about the disparities that come with breast cancer and they’re just a great organization [and] I’m happy with everything they’ve done.”
Catalinotto also cited the work Equal Hope has done to help minority groups.
“They’ve done so much for the Chicagoland area and a lot of minorities who may not have an opportunity to get the resources they need for cancer and they’ve just been amazing,” Catalinotto said.
When asked about her voting plan to vote in the 2020 presidential election, Catalinotto said she made a plan to vote-by-mail and researched the candidates on her ballot.
“I did mail-in voting and that was one of my biggest plans because since being in Chiago I was like, ‘Ok I’m going to mail-in [vote] and do this perfectly,’ and what I did beforehand was research all the [candidates] that [were] going to be on the ballot — whether that’s candidates or just local candidates, I made sure the I researched them to the best of my capabilities of what was available and… that was one of my biggest things,” Catalinotto said.
Catalinotto encouraged others to research the candidates on their ballots prior to voting and to wear a mask if they vote in-person.
“Researching the candidates that are on the ballot that’s one of the biggest things you can do and especially being a pandemic and if you’re not doing a mail-in vote, you just want to make sure that you’re doing it safe and socially distant because it’s important and especially wearing a mask,” Catalinotto said. “That is one of the biggest important things. I think just having a plan needs to be implemented no matter what you do whether it’s making sure that your location is close, and you have enough time to wait in line because there is that possibility that you will be stuck in line all day.”
When asked about the most rewarding aspect of serving as DAB’s Social Change Chair, Catalinotto explained providing organizations with a chance to get their message across is one of them.
“I think it’s just… being able to have a platform and just giving other organizations the opportunity to express what they… want to talk about especially with HPW, and DALE and… Equal Hope it’s… hard especially because of the pandemic,” Catalinotto said.
Catalinotto added that providing students and others within the DePaul community with important resources that can help them has also been rewarding.
“It’s hard but… especially now we just need to have more unity as one and just giving people opportunities, and I think that’s one of my most rewarding things is just giving students and other people in the DePaul community the opportunity to have resources they can go further along with rather than me just talking or the person I’m working with talking about their cause,” Catalinotto said. “I think there is just so much that can lead to something greater so that’s probably one of my most rewarding parts about doing all of this.”
SGA’s Civic Engagement and Social Action Series takes place Tuesday nights at 5:30 p.m. with a new panelist each week until the 2020 presidential election in November.