Croft Institute student Victoria Gallegos takes ‘international’ to heart
Growing up in Chicago, Victoria Gallegos was surrounded by people who didn’t share her culture or family history.
“Throughout my childhood, all of my friends were from different ethnic backgrounds, and I, myself, am of Scottish, Mexican and Spanish descent,” Gallegos said. “Living amongst the blending of cultures is what inspired me to want to study languages and culture.”
While looking at colleges, Gallegos searched for universities with strong international studies programs. She wanted go somewhere that would challenge her academically and socially, and she decided on the University of Mississippi’s Croft Institute for International Studies.
“When I chose to come to Ole Miss, I did not know a single person at the university or even in Mississippi,” Gallegos said. “No one from my high school had ever gone to an SEC university, and it was all so new and intimidating.
“All I knew was that I wanted to study societies throughout the world and the University of Mississippi would allow me to do that and more.”
Gallegos, known as Tori to family and friends, came to campus as a 2017 Stamps Scholar with a major in international studies and minors in Spanish and intelligence and security studies.
As a Stamps Scholar, Gallegos was provided funding for her own travel and research. She used this opportunity to travel to four countries during her time at Ole Miss. While abroad, she worked to continue to push herself out of her comfort zone and represent the university well.
“Traveling has always been important to me, and through Ole Miss and scholarships, I have been fortunate enough to travel four times,” Gallegos said. “I have studied in Ecuador, Berlin, Colombia and Cambridge in the UK.
“When I’ve traveled, I’ve view myself as an ambassador of the university. I constantly think about how I can best represent the University of Mississippi to everyone I meet.”
Gallegos feels a great sense of gratitude toward the university for allowing her to live out her goals. She acknowledges all she has been given and works to show her appreciation through her many accomplishments; amongst them, Columns Society, Diamond Girls and impressive internships with the UM Center for Open Source Analysis, a student publication that covers emerging national security issues around the world, and the Center for Intelligence and Security Studies.
Through the help of Ole Miss, her scholarships and her professors, Gallegos has been able to write international briefing books for Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves’ international travels.
She also has researched, planned and written a two-day national securities seminar that was held on both regional and national levels. This spring, she interned with the Brookings Institution, an influential nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C.
“The University of Mississippi has provided me with countless opportunities I never thought I would have,” Gallegos said. “To show my appreciation and give back to Ole Miss, I have become involved in anything and everything you can imagine. I want to serve the university well in everything I do.”
Gallegos has made a lasting impression on campus through her character and her work. Kristin Hickman, assistant professor of anthropology and international studies in the Croft Institute, said she was impressed by Gallegos for these reasons.
“Tori was one of the first students I ever had here at Ole Miss,” Hickman said. “She is such a strong student and person who is engaged in everything she does. Tori has done great things and she never just works for herself.
“She has this strong desire to learn about others and make sure everyone gets something out of her work.”
The idea of public service and exploring cultures is a theme not only in Gallegos’ undergraduate studies, but in her postgraduate and career goals, too. This fall, Gallegos plans to attend the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University to pursue international affairs.
Ultimately, she dreams of working for the government and giving back to the country that has given her so much.
Reflecting back on her time at UM, Gallegos said, “The university has always had my back. The people I’ve met here have always encouraged me to do anything and everything I wanted. I will never forget the opportunities and support system I have found here.”
Story by Kathryn Albritton/College of Liberal Arts