Victoria Carvalho Salles (Class of 2019)

photo of Victoria Carvalho Salles

  • senior Global Politics and Diplomacy major
  • minors in Lusophone Studies and Business Legal Studies
  • from Vila Velha, Brazil
  • Undergraduate Summer Scholar, conducted research on discrimination in US public school system (2018)
  • presented research results at Ohio Association of Economists and Political Scientists Annual Meeting & Conference (September 2018)
"I'm very grateful to wake up every morning and go to class, and I've recently expressed to my mom how grateful I am to her for making all of this possible. My advice to every college student is to follow what you are truly passionate about. Find out what sets your soul on fire and pursue it like crazy."

Why Miami?

"I moved to the United States from Brazil when I was in high school and decided to stay here for college. I loved the atmosphere of Miami's campus and the research opportunities. Although I was already interested in politics, I wasn't sure at first whether I would pursue research. I just felt that Miami would provide all the tools I could use to pursue whatever I chose.

"As an international student, I love traveling and getting to know different cultures. My experience at Miami has been so amazing that I like to joke that once I graduate, I'll be ready for my next country, where I'll attend graduate school. Miami has been a great way for me to master English, and as a grad student I'm looking forward to immersing myself in another language.

"I'm a nerd, so I was so focused on my academics during my first year here that I didn't involve myself in many extracurricular activities. I came in taking 20 credit hours my first semester, including many global politics classes, and I've been taking that amount ever since. That's why I'm graduating a year early!"

Best Miami Experiences

"In the Department of Political Science, professor Abdoulaye Saine really helped me a lot in choosing my classes, guiding me in my research, and simply being there for me. Paula Gandara, who teaches Portuguese and Lusophone Studies in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese, is just incredible — she's passionate about everything she teaches and has inspired me to consider being a professor one day. For over two years I have been helping her as a teaching assistant (TA) in her classes.

"I have many different passions, and among the strongest is how poorer countries can improve issues related to crime, education, and other issues. My own education and research experiences now will ultimately affect what I can do to improve various issues in the world, as well as show me what not to do. Understanding these issues is how I prepare myself for the future, perhaps as Brazil's next president!

"I first considered going to law school, since I love studying about law and was motivated to get a minor in business legal studies, but after I graduate I've decided to pursue my passion for law in a more international field. Since last year I'd been applying to graduate schools (mostly in Europe) to study international relations, and I'll be attending SciencesPo in Paris. Although I won't be practicing law, I want to have the freedom to move anywhere I'm called to. I would love to work for the United Nations or UNESCO before ultimately returning to Brazil to start a political career.

"Research is something that I have been particularly focused on a lot here at Miami. Last summer I was an Undergraduate Summer Scholar for a research project on discrimination in the US public school system. I later presented my findings at the Ohio Association of Economists and Political Scientists conference in Columbus, Ohio in the fall."

Miami and the Liberal Arts

"Many students have a love and hate relationship with the Miami Plan, but I think that having this broad education really helps for your personal and intellectual growth. I've taken many classes outside my major that I've really loved. For example, I took an amazing philosophy course about confronting death when I first came to Miami, and I enjoyed it so much that one of my regrets in graduating a year early is that I cannot double major in philosophy!

"Other courses that I've enjoyed was a required course in microbiology, where we discussed how the spread of diseases has become not only a social problem but has also raised concerns about bioterrorism and how it might become a tool in the future.

"In particular, of course, I have loved my law and political science classes. I love to study the dichotomy between law and morality — what's right, what's wrong, and how we can have laws that are not morally correct. Last spring I took a course on gender and politics with associate professor Monica Schneider. It was a great class in which she brought the whole concept of gender into politics, reminding us how women impact the political world and that perhaps we need more women in positions of power.

"I don't yet know my future path, but one of the things that I love most about global politics is that it's so broad — I can focus on security, education, immigration, human rights. I don't even have to stick to just one. I like having the freedom to change so much that it's very important to me to just follow my passions."

Analyzing Public Education Funding Disparities among Schools in Ohio

"I consider myself a conflict seeker — in other words, whenever there's a socio-political conflict, I'm eager to find the solution. I'm really drawn to that, and there have even been times when I'll create a little conflict in order to solve it! Of course, my family has never liked that aspect about me so much.

"I look at issues within the framework of social justice. Since moving here to the US from Brazil and becoming part of a completely different reality made me realize that there are things in life that should not be the way they are. As human beings, we have a responsibility to fix it. As one of the privileged members of society, I feel if we don't try to fix something, who will?

"With this in mind, in summer 2018 I received an Undergraduate Summer Scholarship to work on a project that I'd been interested in since before I came to Miami. I worked with Amanda Gatewood, a former assistant professor at Miami who is also an awesome political scientist. I conducted research on discrimination in the American public school system, primarily how funding is distributed by the government. Some schools receive more money than others, and it so happens that African-American and Hispanic-majority schools tend to receive less support than schools that are mostly white.

"I learned that the reason is connected to property taxes, which is how most public school funding is calculated. Because African Americans and Hispanics tend to receive less income than white Americans, they live in poorer neighborhoods. As a consequence, schools in those neighborhoods pay less property taxes. This problem was so serious here in Ohio that there was a case considered by the Ohio Supreme Court, which concluded that our method of funding public schools is unconstitutional.

"Here in the US, education is not treated as a fundamental right at the federal level — it's really up to the states. Every state has a different take on public education funding, which to me makes no sense. After all, education is education! Within the 50 public schools in the greater Cincinnati area that I researched, I was shocked to find that schools in wealthy neighborhoods were spending an average of about $16,000 per student annually, while many schools in lower income areas were only investing $5,000.

"Most of the world has the impression that discrimination in the US is merely something that happened in the past. However, I believe that institutional racism still exists. Maybe it's not intentional and no particular group is to blame, but I still want to help determine how things can be done better, because every human being should have the same opportunities. We all may make our own mistakes, but we should be allowed to choose our own paths."

Advice to Students

"I'm very grateful to wake up every morning and go to class, and I've recently expressed to my mom how grateful I am to her for making all of this possible. My advice to every college student is to follow what you are truly passionate about. Find out what sets your soul on fire and pursue it like crazy, because if you wake up happy about your classes, that means you should be able to wake up happy about your job.

"Don't get stuck in a career that you don't like just because you're making money and it's providing you with material things. Go for what you truly love. You're allowed to change your mind! Perhaps what you like today is not what you're going to like in 5 years.

"When someone asks me what I want to be in the future, I tell them I don't know. I'm not going to be the same person in 5 years, and I'm fine with not knowing. What matters is how happy I feel in the morning and at the end of the day with the choices that I've made."

[March 2019]