Student Profile: Diane D’Costa ’18

By Laura Hoxworth

A fourth-year from Howard County, Maryland, Diane is studying both Youth and Social Innovation and Leadership and Public Policy as the first student to double-major across the Curry School and the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. She is also the Vice President for the Class of 2018, and last summer she interned in D.C. with the National Education Association.


Diane fell in love with leadership early on. As a high school student in Maryland, she started working with Maryland Leadership Workshops, a leadership development organization for middle and high school students. She was immediately hooked.

After graduating high school and enrolling at UVA, Diane continued her work with MLW, staffing and teaching workshops on topics like self-awareness, group dynamics, and diversity. When she was deciding what to study at UVA, her goal was to plot a course to a career where it felt like she was “doing MLW at all points in time” – fostering community and empowering youth by helping them build important life skills. So she started taking courses in the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.

“I always had this interest in policy and changing the world through policy and public service,” she said. “But then, the more I studied policy, the more I saw that education was the root for all of these things – prison reform, environmental issues – everything came back to education.”

Diane decided to take a Curry School course on Education Policy taught by Jim Wyckoff. However, because of a scheduling conflict, she ended up enrolling in a Youth and Social Innovation course with Curry School Dean Bob Pianta instead. In retrospect, she said, it was the best possible accident.

“After being in that class, I realized it would be such a powerful combination to be able to understand the education side of things – positive youth development and all of that – and then the policy aspect of how you get it done. I think it’s such a powerful combination.”  

Forging the way as the first inter-school double-major involved cutting through some red tape, but she had lots of support. “Dean Pianta was the number one advocate of me being able to do these two programs,” she said. “Had I not met him that semester, I probably wouldn’t have been able to make it happen. Knowing I had the support of the Curry School was really so valuable.”

Of course, Diane is also accustomed to being a leader. In addition to serving as the Vice President for the Class of 2018, Diane landed a coveted internship with the National Education Association in D.C. last summer. Out in the working world, Diane said she received very positive reactions to her two areas of study, which she believes speaks to the power of Curry and Batten together. (She did end up taking that Education Policy course, too – which she also loved.)

Now, with the in-depth knowledge she’s gained through her double-major, Diane fully understands what makes youth development programs so powerful – and how to build a career where she can bringing those theories and practices out into the mainstream.

“Once I took the YSI class, I was like, this is the stuff that makes MLW work,” she said. “I want this to be something that’s more than just small pockets of youth programs – I want it to be the norm in schools.”