Today we’d like to introduce you to Victoria Thomas.
Victoria, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I live in the Tucson area, I was born and raised here. I have a lot of love for Arizona as it has many beauties that you wouldn’t be able to find in other parts of the world. Whenever I travel outside of Arizona I always miss the sun when I am away. The love I have for Arizona has grown the more I am able to connect to the different places along with the land. I am a Native American and identify with two tribes that are located in parts of Arizona such as the Tohono O’odham Nation and the Navajo Nation. Both of the tribes have played a vibrant role of who I have become today. The values I have in life have helped me become a strong indigenous women, thanks to the strong dynamic role of my family I am able to move through life with a kind heart but a strong attitude at the same time. Currently I am getting ready to start a master’s program at the University of Arizona in the Fall, I will be studying Education Policy. I recently graduated with a Bachelors in Literacy, Learning, and Leadership from the University of Arizona this past May. I choose this path because I want to make a difference in a field that has a lot to do with the way our younger generations are shaped. I want to be a part of the programs, institutions, and communities that are wanting to create a better educational path for their youth. I didn’t become interested in this career until my second semester of college which is weird because by that time, most of my peers had set paths and so did I at that moment. All through my years before starting college I wanted to get a job in the business field because it was the most practical thing that I knew about. I did many things growing up that were supposed to prepare me for college and for business school. But my passions grew in a different area that I didn’t expect to end up in and is still a surprise to me that I am here. I look forward to future choices in my life because at times I feel I barely growing up and which is why I also feel this is only somewhat the beginning of my story, we can skip the youth part. Most of the things I remember from my youth is sports and school. My mom made sure I was super well rounded with those things. But now it just means that I can usually multitask with different things in my life.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Being a women isn’t a smooth road for sure but creating a strong foundation around you is what can help in having less challenges during your growth. For me surrounding myself with other strong indigenous women, supporting people, and loved ones has helped me embrace who I am and love every part of myself. I had trouble with maintaining my mental health during college because of the amount of expectations there are for a type of leader like me and at the same time there are still obstacles put up against you. For me it was important to go against the stereotypes of both a women and an indigenous person, so I would do whatever I wanted to, and make changes in places that needed change. You could say I made sure to take up space. My advice for younger women just starting their journeys, is to move forward with a confident attitude in any space you are going into because you’re going to turn heads and intimidate people but guess what at the same time you’ll make friends with others who do the same. I want younger women to know that there is always room for self-love, but don’t forget the acknowledgement of showing kindness or love to people and places around you.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with your business – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Right now my work is my schooling, I am studying Education Policy in hopes to eventually work for Tribal Education. During school, I was most likely the only Native American in the classroom which is something that sort of sets me a part because in many cases the effects of the education system weren’t always in my favor or I may have not been always represented in the curriculum that I was learning. A lot of what I did during school was to educate myself on the academia world and understand how I myself fit into it. Which is where the passion came from because I wanted to understand why I never learned about Native American history in school and why they’re are issues that surround Native American students in public schooling. So I then got a job that help me create a service learning project for college students to get to learn about the indigenous tribes that surround the University of Arizona. I worked with the Native American college students during my undergrad to not educate others but to understand all of our stories of how we all got to higher education. I wanted to learn what it meant to indigenize a space that was not necessarily built for indigenous peoples’. I wouldn’t say I specialize in anything yet because I am always learning new things that can shift my mindset. But I am proud of what I have done by being very involved in my indigenous community on campus and giving back to the community I am a part of. I also think that I did a lot of work that I am very humble about because I met amazing smart people and professionals who have helped me throughout the years. I have been given opportunities that helped me understand that someone like me could really do anything as long as I was willing to always try new things and being okay with being in uncomfortable situations that would later benefit me.
There’s a wealth of academic research that suggests that lack of mentors and networking opportunities for women has materially affected the number of women in leadership roles. Smart organizations and industry leaders are working to change this, but in the meantime, do you have any advice for finding a mentor and building a network?
My advice is to find mentors in places where you want to excel. I’ve met a lot of my mentors and people who I look up to in the places I have chosen to work in because those places were places I wanted to be in based on the mission or the goals that place had or even who they served. It’s just about finding your comfort place and who can support you in what you want to do.
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Graduation Photos by Daryan Singer