Unpacking a hectic day

(Photo courtesy of USG Communications)

When Trenton Stone first began his term as president of the Undergraduate Student Government, he kept a suitcase stuffed with spare clothes in his office. Stone also stored extra toothpaste and face wash in his desk and slept on a bean bag during late nights. Tasked with leading an organization of more than 100 members and coordinating a multi-million dollar budget, Stone spent little time outside his small cubicle last spring. 

Now, despite Stone’s noticeable presence on campus, the details of his daily life are largely unknown to those outside of USG. Stone faces a demanding schedule of meeting with administrators and managing an expansive organization, all while juggling the responsibilities of a full-time student. 

After a morning workout, Stone typically arrives at the USG office at 8:30 a.m. to prepare for the day’s meetings, which include appointments with senior administrators and check-ins with other USG personnel. On a typical day, Stone has five to six meetings staggered in accordance with his class schedule. 

Vice President Mahin Tahsin often accompanies Stone to meetings to provide a different perspective on student-related issues. During one 20-minute phone conversation with Vice President of Student Affairs Winston Crisp and two other senior administrative officials, Tahsin assisted Stone in discussing USG’s upcoming and first-ever presentation to the Board of Trustees. The duo plans to present USG’s semesterly agenda and ongoing projects, including transfer forgiveness programs and CalFresh subsidies. 

Stone believes this is an important step in the ongoing efforts to get a student representative on the Board.

“I think we are a good touchstone to build that bridge between the community and the Board of Trustees,” he said. 

The meeting emphasized the kinship between Stone and Tahsin, who met working at the funding department at USG. Tahsin said their shared values and approaches to USG brought them together when initially deciding to run in Spring 2019. Both USG leaders stressed the importance of building relationships to help execute initiatives that require significant administrative backing. 

“I think that relationship building,     whether it’s the Board of Trustees, whether it’s higher administration, whether it’s even just students — that’s what holds us together,” Tahsin said. 

Stone tries to fit in time for meals between meetings but usually relies solely on caffeine throughout the day. Due to his rigorous schedule, every moment is packed with work for class or USG. 

On a Thursday in January, Stone attends a planning meeting for zero waste events, which is a part of USC’s sustainability steering committee. During the meeting, members discuss how to make smaller-scale events zero waste, including functions at individual departments and colleges. While not officially a part of the task force, Stone tries to stay engaged in different sustainability discussions happening around campus. 

By 11:30 a.m., Stone usually meets with another administrator, this time with Crisp, whom he meets with weekly to review ongoing USG initiatives. Stone and Crisp have developed a close working relationship and regularly call each other on issues impacting the student body. After rumors spread that the coronavirus was present at an off-campus apartment near USC, Stone called Crisp, allowing him to mobilize other members of the administration to respond. 

During the meeting, Stone and Crisp spoke about USG’s restructuring initiative and increasing the number of resource spaces for students on campus. The discussion lasted an hour and a half, forcing Stone to miss one of his two classes that day. 

Stone, a junior majoring in philosophy and international relations (global business), said that being USG president is often overwhelming. While he’s adapted to high levels of stress since his presidential campaign, juggling classwork and extensive USG responsibilities has taken its toll on his well-being. 

“One of the biggest challenges of the position is that even when you become busy with academics, or if you’re emotionally drained, the organization and USC continues on, and you have to be available to meet those demands,” Stone said. 

If Stone finishes his classes by 3:30 p.m., he’ll quickly return to the USG office. That Thursday he rushed back to meet with Isha Sanghvi, director of human resources at Los Angeles Community Impact. Stone was heavily involved with LACI, a student consulting group for nonprofit organizations, during his first two years at USC before becoming USG president. While Stone can no longer dedicate extensive amounts of time to the organization, he volunteered to help interview candidates for LACI membership. 

USG members often stop by to seek mentorship from Stone. This time senatorial candidate Lennon Wesley III stopped by his office to learn about USG restructuring plans. The two former senate aides also caught up on their personal lives and lamented the current news cycle.

In his final meeting of the day, at 5 p.m.,  Stone led the weekly USG executive board meeting where members, including Treasurer Rohan Parepally and Chief Diversity Officer Jeffrey Cho, provided updates on personal projects and the work of their respective teams. 

Stone has since moved his wardrobe back to his apartment — aside from one suit for emergencies — and refocused on maintaining a healthier work-life balance. He credits his executive team as his support system for when the job is too overwhelming. 

“I think it’s about just being honest and open with people about when you can’t give more and when you have certain limits and pulling away when you can try to rely on your team to fill in some of those gaps,” Stone said.

(Kitty Huang | Daily Trojan)