Presidential snapshot: Natalie Dall


Natalie Dall (Photo by Will Miller | Staff Photographer)

By Saskia Berrios-Thomas / Staff Writer

Natalie Dall has never been idle on campus — and she doesn’t want to be.

A month and a half after she joined the Resident Student Association in her first year of college, Dall ran for the group’s presidency — and won.

But Dall’s leadership didn’t stop there. She went on to become a Student Government Board member, where she still serves, and helped orchestrate the opening of the first gender-neutral housing at Pitt while also assisting with published molecular biology research and serving in several Greek organizations. Now, the junior molecular biology major is running for a presidency again, but this time she has the advantage of a large network of friends and mentors, as well as a full year on the Board behind her.

Tom McIntyre, a junior majoring in linguistics, said he’s become acclimated to her ambitious attitude on campus life. McIntyre and Dall are close friends, but according to Dall, her Google Calander is her best friend.

“Natalie’s someone who’s never satisfied,” McIntyre said. “She’s never okay with things exactly how they are. She’s always trying to work on things and make them better.”

If elected, Dall wants to improve sexual assault education and interventions on campus and strengthen the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences advising for first-year and undeclared students.

After one of her friends was assaulted last year, Dall said, she watched her struggle to get the help she needed from Pitt and get closure for her attack. So in addition to comforting her friend, Dall also used her friend’s experience to launch an SGB initiative to raise awareness of sexual violence on campus and make it easier for survivors of violence to find the resources they need.

Central to her passion for the project is creating a single document that details every resource available to students who experience sexual violence. The document, a sort of one-stop guide, may take the form of a tab on the My Pitt homepage that students can navigate quickly and easily.

“Hearing her side of that showed me, ‘OK, we have a problem that we need to fix on our campus,’” Dall said. “If one student is having so much difficulty with reporting … then a lot of students are probably having similar struggles.”

She said her background in science, and her calculating mind, makes taking on these kinds of initiatives easier.

“I think it’s nice because I do have a very analytical brain,” Dall said. “So it’s a lot of Plan B thinking and thinking things through before I act on them.”

In high school, Dall was the type of student who took every Advanced Placement science class offered, including higher-level physics, biology and chemistry classes. Now, she works in a lab, studying fruit fly genitalia to better understand evolution and development.

But she doesn’t want a career as a resident director, a politician or a researcher — she wants to teach.

“I realized I’ve been lying to myself about it for a long time,” Dall said. “I’ve always been super passionate about education. I love to teach, I love to tutor. I’ve finally accepted I would be so much happier doing education and communications because that’s what fulfills me the most.”

Dall began at Pitt on the pre-medicine track but increasingly became more interested in education and communications, and she decided her sophomore year that she’d be happier conducting research and becoming a professor.

A Ph.D. hopeful, Dall said science comes easily to her, and she’d likely be happy in any job related to the field.

“Whether it’s teaching, explaining science to politicians or writing policy to make it more clear to the general public — any of those I could see myself loving,” Dall said.

Though she often spends her free time in the lab, Dall is still focused on her campaign and her Board position.

She’s currently working with Board member Lia Petrose to survey students about their advisers, then use that data to either implement the Office of Measurement and Evaluation of Teaching evaluations for advisers, or implement a matching program to help students pair up with advisers that have experience in the student’s intended field.

Dall said her passion for helping students comes from her time as president of RSA, where she organized events such as Silent Disco, a mental health awareness event where students dance with headphones on. An onlooker would see nothing but a silent room, while participants hear music blaring in their ears, an effort to raise awareness about mental illness with speakers from Pitt Active Minds and Talk About It.

She said events like Silent Disco made her feel connected to the student body, and she enjoys representing the students’ voice, which is why she ran for SGB last spring.

“There were some things that I thought I would want to work with,” Dall said. “It was one of those things where I thought, ‘I know I could do that, I would be interested in doing that, so I’m going to do it,’ which is how I do a lot of things at this University.”

Though Dall’s days are packed with meetings, research, SGB events, class and studying, her former roommate Amy Check said her friend can handle anything.

“She’s so involved,” Check, a senior accounting and information systems major, said. “I don’t think her being involved has ever affected her quality of work.”

For Check, Dall’s most impressive feat is making time for her friends even through her busiest days.

“She’ll have 20 meetings during the day, and if I’m having a bad day, she’ll still make time to get coffee with me,” Check said.

McIntyre echoed Check’s statement, saying Dall’s work ethic and compassion are what make her a great candidate and person.

“What she’s doing, it’s not just work, work, work,” McIntyre said. “It’s trying to help people.”

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