Harmony in Transition: A Q&A with Brianna DellaValle — Reflecting on Graduation, Double Majors, and the Pursuit of Purpose

Jan. 8, 2024
Brianna DellaValle standing outside

Brianna DellaValle

Brianna DellaValle graduated in December 2023 with a double major in Philosophy and Music. During her time as an undergraduate student at the University of Arizona, she was an SBS Ambassador, served as the vice president of Eta Sigma Phi, volunteered her time at SolNote (a nonprofit that connects foster children and music), sang in her church choir, and helped at Angels in Autism — a Tucson-based equine therapy organization. As she moves beyond college, she reflects on navigating a double major and significant extracurricular commitments. She shares insights into prioritizing her responsibilities and discusses how her academic journey is shaping her future endeavors.

Why did you choose UArizona?

I chose the University of Arizona because I was interested in the philosophy program, and I loved the campus. I also really enjoyed the downtown music and art scene. Some of my favorite memories are concerts with friends at the Rialto Theatre and the Century Room.

You were involved in many activities both on and off campus. How did you balance the demands of pursuing a double major with active involvement in school activities and community volunteering?

Making friends and serving the community is a great way to get connected, but it’s important to stay on top of schoolwork so that life isn’t too crazy! I used Notion to organize my schoolwork and plan ahead. On Sunday afternoons I would usually meal prep, put in my assignment to-do lists for the week, and put important information into my academic calendar. Studying with friends is a great way to be social and get work done as well.

How do you decide which activities and projects to participate in? For instance, Tangle?

I chose my activities carefully because I didn’t want to take on too much, and I wanted to make sure what I took on was worthwhile and rejuvenating. I was a teaching assistant for two semesters, and that was a great, super flexible, on-campus job. In my final semester, I was a college ambassador intern for the independent, non-partisan political newsletter, Tangle, which I got into by reaching out to the founder because I loved reading the daily newsletter. I felt called to bring Tangle to college students because of the increased partisanship and dishonesty in the news media. I am excited to continue working for them as a college graduate.

How did your honors thesis, a feminist critique of Max Tegmark’s Mathematical Universe Hypothesis, tie in with your majors?

Over the course of working on my philosophy degree, I began to develop an interest in feminist epistemology and phenomenology, as well as philosophical and literary works by people of color. And, I have also always loved physics, questions about the universe, and human existence. For my honors thesis, I decided to combine all these topics with the philosophy of mathematics to argue against a model of reality I feel obscures the lives of women and other marginalized groups. My thesis, “Mathematics, Subjectivity, and Standpoint Theory: A Feminist Critique of the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis” is in the Honors Theses repository.

How have your two majors and extracurricular activities supported your future goals and equipped you for leadership positions?

I definitely feel that my involvement on campus and in my community, alongside my double majors, strengthened the leader within me. I had to be willing to put myself aside to serve others. I also learned when to have grace and mercy, and when to enact discipline. Networking and proper communication skills like being able to teach others, and facilitating productive discussions are key. I know all my experiences at UArizona enhanced those qualities. Philosophy and music both challenge the ego and the intellect, and they raise the heart and spirit to beautiful heights. I know my study of both will help me reach my goals because I’ve been able to find validity in diverse viewpoints while sharpening my mind, developing my humility, and bolstering my intellectual stamina.

One of my favorite classes was collaborative piano because up until that point, I had only played solo pieces. Going from solo repertoire to four-hand piano is a challenge, but a great exercise in collaboration, communication, and humility. At some points in the music, your hands are literally on top of your partner’s, and you have to know when to follow and when to take the lead. Shout out to my piano partner Hesheng and Dr. Linder! 

What are your post-graduation plans?

To be completely transparent, I am not entirely sure what my next steps are, but I know what I’m passionate about and how I want to help others. I have been volunteering at the Andre House in Phoenix and I am interested in doing a year of service there. The Andre House is a ministry to the homeless population in Phoenix, where they provide daily dinner services, showers, restrooms, hygiene kits, clothing closets, laundry services, and phone usage. Faith and social justice are extremely important to me, so I would like to pursue graduate studies in theology and divinity at some point. I have also considered healthcare professions from nursing to counseling. I think my dream would be to combine faith, health services, creativity, and social justice to provide medical, spiritual, and emotional services for marginalized individuals.

What shareable insights about finding balance did you gain during your time at UArizona?

Balance is key to achieving a productive and enjoyable time at college. With that comes acknowledging hardships and circumstances that are out of your control. Sometimes you receive an unfair grade. Sometimes family and personal circumstances completely derail your semester. Sometimes you may feel alone and in a state of despair. It is so important to constantly check in with yourself, and those closest to you. Are you sleeping enough? Are you eating well? Are you socializing enough? Too much? Never go so far into social commitments and/or academic studies that you can’t maintain the necessities that are essential to your well-being. Do things outside of your comfort zone that allow you to engage with passion projects and interests.

If you know you’ll get distracted being at home, go to the library! College is what you make it — it’s all about using internal resources and those around you to make the best of your time and circumstances. The best thing you can do is take care of yourself and others. Do not be afraid to ask for help, and always extend a helping hand.