Victoria Patton Discovers Latin American History

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Victoria Patton, a senior history major at USD and the co-president of the history honor society, lives the international perspective of her department and the university.

Tori, as she is known to her friends, got her first taste of the foreign world when she traveled to Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay with her Spanish language instructor and other students during her senior year at Woodside Priory High School, located in Portola Valley, California. That teacher also taught his students Latin American history.

“I kind of fell in love with Latin American history and did more reading than I had to for class,” Tori recalls. “That’s when I started realizing that I liked history.”

The class visited the site, at 12,000 feet in the Argentine Andes, where a plane carrying Uruguayan rugby players had crashed in 1973. The students met some of the survivors.

For Tori it was all an eye-opening experience and a wonderful chance to practice her Spanish.

And she was set on becoming a history major in college.

“Before I came to USD, I started talking about becoming a Latin American history major, and everybody laughed at me and said, ‘What are you going to do with that?’” says Tori, currently a student in Dr. Kenneth Serbin’s History of Brazil. “At first, I decided that I should do business, because it’s more practical. But I didn’t like business. I kept reading Latin American history books in my free time. I decided to major in what interested me the most.”

Tori became a history major during her freshman year.

“I feel that in looking at history I can figure out why everything going on in the world is happening,” she says. “We learn why countries are the way they are today.”

Tori is also studying a minor in Spanish. Among her favorite authors are the Chilean Isabel Allende and the Mexican Laura Esquivel. Her second minor is in anthropology, where she has taken other Latin-America-related courses.

This past summer she studied in the Guadalajara Program’s session in Madrid, Spain.

At USD Tori has found what she sought in a university education: a very personal atmosphere where students can have one-on-one contact with professors. “The teachers really do care about their students personally,” she says of the USD faculty.

As co-president of Phi Alpha Theta, the history honor society, Tori is working to increase the contact among history majors and promote deeper understanding of the discipline. So far the society, whose other co-president is history major Ashley Beauchemin, has several museum trips, movie nights, and speakers scheduled for this academic year. The organization is planning other activities.

Upon graduation in May, Tori plans to stay involved with Latin American history. “I would love to travel all of Latin America,” she says, adding that she would like to live and work in the region for a period. She is also contemplating graduate school in history.

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