Victoria Humphreys, ’13
From rez to fed: Advancing Indian Affairs one way or another.
When Victoria Humphreys, ’13, started her undergraduate education at Kent State, it was by no means her first experience on campus. Victoria grew up learning alongside her mom, who was studying at Kent State in the early 2000s. They frequented campus, participating in different activities, but among the most memorable was the powwow she attended with her mom and siblings. Victoria is Akimel O’odham, a Native American Tribe in Arizona, and enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Community. When she began classes at Kent State, she was disappointed to find the Native American celebrations she once attended were no longer held. It has always been her mission to advance Native communities, so she worked to establish the Native American Student Association and a Native American studies course at Kent State, bringing the powwow and Native involvement back to the community. Victoria planned to attend law school after graduating, but Kent State Associate Professor Stephanie Smith showed Victoria how she could use public relations and communications to positively impact her community through the federal government, while doing the work she loves. In Native American culture, the ancestors encourage a purposeful life and positive change. Victoria feels it is this determination and passion that has driven her to where she is today, working as a public affairs specialist in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior, advocating for Tribal communities and helping advance a lasting legacy for Tribal communities across the nation.
KSU: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
VH: Peace - having that time to rest, refocus and reenergize is a blessing many take for granted. Starting my week off with ease and gratitude helps me keep my eye on my priorities and reminds me why I do my work and put in so much extra effort.
KSU: What is your favorite trait in others?
VH: Passion - without it, how are we going to change the world for the better?
KSU: What trait about yourself do you like least?
VH: My inability to say no when I should. It mainly applies to my work and volunteer opportunities. It took a long time to understand that I can't help others if I do not care for myself. Unfortunately, I still end up volunteering, being voluntold or feeling the need to offer my help unsolicited. Let's check back in a year or so and see how I improve on my "saying no" journey.
KSU: Who has had the greatest influence on your life?
VH: My mother. She is one of the strongest women I have ever met. I would not have gone to college if it weren't for her attending Kent State when my siblings and I were in middle school. We would come to campus, partake in activities and hide in a closet when a professor visited the classroom after hours when students were finishing their studio projects. It helped me know the campus well enough to skip welcome weekend and start classes on the first day of the semester with no issue. The best part about all of this was no one knew I was going to college except for my mother. So, it was fun to surprise people when they would see me on campus or ask either of us about it.
KSU: What is your favorite Kent State memory?
VH: My favorite Kent State memory was receiving my eagle feathers during the Karamu Ya Wahitimu graduation ceremony. The moment they were pinned to the shawl my Tribe sent me for graduation, I felt like I was ready to start my journey to help advance development across Indian Country as I walked across the big stage for graduation with my diploma in hand.
KSU: What is your favorite journey?
VH: Creating a legacy. When I went to KSU with my mom in the early 2000s, we would go to the powwow on the Kent Campus. When I came to KSU, there was no Native American presence. I was agitated by this and created the Native American Student Association and brought the powwow and Native American celebrations back to campus. Additionally, we worked with the other departments to develop a Native American studies course. We incorporated Native culture within the Student Multicultural Center and used the changing display in the library to highlight the first people in the area. The star quilt dedication to the school during my last semester was beautiful. The quilt will live on for future Native students to feel included and accepted.
KSU: What is your guilty pleasure?
VH: Fast food... Don't get me wrong, I love to cook and bake. But, when you work full-time, have a house to take care of, errands around D.C. traffic, and two large and giant breed dogs, a bit of quickness is called for if you want to eat before another meeting or errand. It also doesn't help that D.C. has some of the best food worldwide. You just pick a country of food you want, find it and have it delivered or pick it up on the way to the next thing. I often forgot to eat while in undergrad, so this works until I can get on a healthier routine.
KSU: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
VH: Living each day to the fullest. Tomorrow is never guaranteed; we can only try to change what we are educated on and can control. I could list many things I consider "one of my greatest achievements." Still, those are milestones that served as an opportunity to continue to grow and help my people.
KSU: If you could come back as one person, who would it be and why?
VH: I would come back as an advisor under President Andrew Jackson so I could tell him to calm down. Or Lewis Cass, the Secretary of War under Jackson (the Department of War was created to combat the Indian population), to advise Jackson not to run around the west on horseback slaughtering Tribal members. The best thing about the dark side of history is that we are here to shine a light on it and create tangible change for future generations.
KSU: What part of your college experience most formed who you are today?
VH: My public relations course with guest lecturer and Associate Professor Stephanie Smith. She came into our class and spoke about using public relations and communication skills to impact my community through a position with the federal government. Of course, I wanted to attend law school like many other Tribal members do. Still, I learned I could make the same impact as some of these lawyers and policymakers. I waited after class until I could talk to her. She helped me secure my internship with the Office of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs after I had turned down an internship with John Kerry at the Department of State. From there, she and other professors have continued to reach out as I made my way to my dream position at the Department of the Interior, working in the Office of the Secretary in the Office of Public Affairs - Indian Affairs.