Her commitment to this project is manifest in her personal and professional life.
She is a communication studies and gender, women, and sexuality studies double major. She is also an international student, hailing from Botswana, Southern Africa.
Valentina grew up in a multi-cultural home. Her mother is Persian, and her father is Indian. She attributes much of her passion for diversity and inclusion to her upbringing in a culturally vibrant home and community.
“I was constantly encouraged to explore and learn about people’s families, cultures, traditions, beliefs, backgrounds. That’s part of how I became immediately involved in the Diversity Center and multicultural programs and organizations on campus,” Valentina said.
Throughout her time at Gustavus, Valentina has been involved in the Pan Afrikan Student Organization (PASO), I Am We Are, the Diversity Leadership Council (DLC), Interfaith Advisory Board, Guild of St. Lucia, and she has worked at the Center for International and Cultural Education (CICE).
“My spirit and my heart have really been pushed in every aspect of my involvement at Gustavus. It has been a place that has cultivated and fostered my passion for social justice, which was definitely present in my childhood and household,” Valentina said.
The latest campus event Valentina was a lead facilitator in was Africa Night, which took place April 11.
“It is my absolute favorite night on campus because I feel like my homes and lives are existing in coherence,” Valentina said.
“I cry every year—with joy of course! I love seeing how much everyone that attends enjoys the show,” Valentina said.
Along with her deep involvement in the Gustavus community, her friends describe her as an extremely genuine person, making her particulalry well-suited to the diffcult work of promoting social justice and cultural awareness.
“Valentina is exceptional and everyone who knows her would say the same, and I think that speaks greatly to her being. Her sense of self is contagious. She is passionate, ambitious, modest, sincere, thoughtful, loving. Just being around her makes you a better person,” Senior Adwoa Afreh said.
As a first-year, Valentina looked up to the upperclassmen and was inspired by their involvement in the Diversity Center and the social justice work they did on campus.
“I hoped and prayed that I could do even a fraction of what they were doing, because they were making an incredible and positive impact. I am just happy and humbled that I was a part of the process, a link in the lengthening chain of people that have been a part of the culture that created this climate on campus,” Valentina said.
Not only does she care about the current role of diversity at Gustavus, but the legacy she will leave behind for future generations of students.
“She contributes to the Gustavus community by just being here, by bringing about different perspectives to the campus. She is constantly engaged in discussions about how we can leave Gustavus better than when we arrived,” Afreh said.
Valentina takes her leadership beyond the borders of Gustavus, by fostering a welcoming and supportive environment for racially underrepresented students through her work in the CICE.
“Valentina has shared her culture and perspectives with the Gustavus community and beyond. I have learned a lot from her,” Jeff Anderson, International Student Services Coordinator said.
Though her community often looks to Valentina for inspiration, at the end of the day, she looks back to them as the ultimate reflection of progress and hope for the future.
“[My friends] are where I see the true meaning of social justice and oneness; people really looking out for people. These are the people that showed me what Gustavus means and how involvement and diversity/inclusion work matters on this campus,” Valentina said.
Though Gustavus contrasts greatly to her experiences in Botswana—especially the harsh winters—Valentina has come to see Gustavus as truely a home away from home.
“I truly care about the future of this institution, of the organizations I have been a part of, and the phenomenal human beings I have met here,” she said.
“I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to be a part of this community and contribute to its spirit and being—I’m thankful to Gustavus and, most importantly, the encouragement and support of my parents. This combination is what makes me a Gustie, bridging the gap between my home and my Gustavus.”