Annalisse Galaviz is human. While this may seem obvious, when we first met — three years ago in Professor Joe Donnelly’s Profile Writing class — and were paired to profile each other, I think we were both doubting this fact. Each morning for the three weeks of the JanTerm, Galaviz strode into class shoulders back, perfectly coiffed hair tossed over her shoulder, carrying herself with the confidence many do not reach by their fourth year, let alone their first year. When prodded about her future plans, she answered with specifics and knowledge: medical school with the preference of working with gene therapy. Now? Galaviz is graduating with a double major in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing and Economics with a “loosey goosey” plan of pursuing a career in journalism for now. What happened between our introduction and graduation is a tale of leaning into self-expression, learning to trust your passions, and growing with your surroundings.
Galaviz was not interested in medicine for the money or the ego involved (or at least not entirely). She grew up having seen family struggle with diabetes and having lost grandparents to cancer and wanted to be part of a solution providing empathetic and accessible medical care to low income communities of color. Just like anything Galaviz dedicates herself to, she was good at being a premed student. She got A’s in all of the requirements she took and even had an internship at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center the summer of 2019. In fact, it was that internship that made her realize how much the healthcare industry was missing humanity and heart. “I felt almost like a robot, how much I had to think of the facts and only the facts, memorize this and that,” said Galaviz. “I was being a star but my heart couldn’t take it.” While she acknowledges that the Whittier College Pre-Health program is opening doors for low income students of color seeking to change that aspect of healthcare, Galaviz turned her desire to make an impact to the liberal arts.
“Okay, we always knew I was going to major in English, Creative Writing.” Galaviz laughed, explaining her draw to the major. “With liberal arts, there is no right or wrong. There are so many subjective experiences to represent in artistic and unique ways that I prefer.” Her interest in economics began due to spite, the desire to prove she was good at it after an IB high school teacher gave her a low C in the class (she did get a seven on the IB exam). However, as her time at Whittier College introduced her to new perspectives and ideas, economics transitioned into a way for her to use facts to look at development and equality in low income countries as they pertain to money. A far cry from the politics Galaviz leaned towards when she entered college.
Galaviz went to a private religious high school in La Puente and, while she says she always questioned her faith and believed in feminism, racial equity, and gay rights, she was surrounded by a lot of “rich ass privileged white kids” who “introduced [her] to a lot of ideology politically that changed [her] life for the worse.” She had originally dreamt of going to college in New York City and finding herself under the bright lights of Time Square, but the decision of staying close home at Whittier to save money ended up showing her that she did not have to travel across the country to learn more about herself.
“Whittier College is private but it’s not . . .” Galaviz forgot the word, making an exaggerated hugging gesture with her arms, “. . .overbearing. [Whittier] gave you an amount of freedom to make your own choices and a lot of diverse perspectives to listen to. Even as a moderate political person, I didn’t ever feel like I was being preached to. I made my own decisions based on the many perspectives I got to experience.” She said that classes, peers, and professors at Whittier gave her the context that she felt like she was missing out from her previous political influences. “Whittier made me a more mature and socially conscious and intelligent person who could really engage in Social discourse.” said Galaviz, adding that this development allowed her to be a better journalist and understand why she was interested in reporting news and politics.
Galaviz and I joined the Quaker Campus at the same time: the spring semester of our first year in 2019. Professor Donnelly recognized her skill in appreciating the details when she was the only student to notice and include that Donnelly had teared up when playing the guitar for our class in our scene writing assignment on the first day of Profile Writing. He encouraged her to join the QC and she started as a copy editor, alongside me. “[Galaviz] is a unicorn, a multi-hyphenate creative writer with a passion for journalism and the heart of a poet,” said Donnelly, “This is a rare, valuable, and hard to find thing these days, but exactly what is needed to help make sense of an increasingly confusing world.” Galaviz was a constant source of motivation for those that joined the QC at the same time. She never shied away from taking assignments others would not and would always leave articles covered in edits from her brown copy editing pen. It came to no one’s surprise when Galaviz was moved to Assistant News Editor and then became News Editor for the next two years.
Galaviz was the features editor of her high school paper and felt it allowed for her to exercise her creative, artsy writing skills. While she still wrote features articles for the Quaker Campus, she had become more knowledgeable on politics and the way they influenced communities that she was more drawn to News. “I started to learn a lot more about politics and branch out about the way I viewed it and [became] more social justice [oriented],” said Galaviz. “Not highbrow intellectual politics, more like on the ground how is this affecting people what are our rights kind of thing. In doing that I realized there is a lot of local news and facts that people need to get and I wanted to be that voice.” The articles that bring her the most pride are ones where she was about to write about local interests, such as the Whittier community fridge, the Voices of Whittier instagram account, and local politics.
Before the Quaker Campus, Galaviz really viewed Whittier College as a means to an end. She was here to get an education and move on. “I skipped out on [freshman orientation because I was like, I’m not trying to form a community, I’m not trying to get involved.” she admitted. “[The QC] made me actually be involved and actually interested in being a person.” Galaviz and I worked beside each other, literally, for a year and a half as News Editor and Arts & Entertainment Editor. We, along with her news co-editor Nathan Tolfa and the then-Features Editor Gabriel Perez (her now-boyfriend), were what she dubs a “dream team.” The whole office was a family, encouraging each other to eat, hydrate, and rest. Our dream team would keep each other awake and enthusiastic on late production nights by holding conversations about favorite films or even upcoming elections.
Galavis is grateful for having decided to attend Whittier College because of the opportunities she has had here, the people she met, how amazing the English department is, and because of her proximity to her family and support system. She has battled with mental health issues and an eating disorder that brought on. Online learning was what Galaviz calls a low point when she relapsed in her eating disorder due to the challenges she experienced. “I struggled with anxiety, depression, [and] isolation, . . . [but] I learned so much from it about balance and the importance of loving what you do and thinking long-term. Caring for mental health is a long-term journey,” Galaviz said, but notes that she has found strategies that help her health and is on medication that is working as well.
Whittier College being no more than ten minutes away from her home meant that she got what she considered a healthy mix of independence and comfort. “I think the biggest thing I learned from college is that I do need to stay close to the people I care about. People are everything to me, and that is my family and my friends,” said Galaviz. She hopes to stay close to home as she looks towards the future after she graduates. Galaviz is currently working as a teacher’s assistant and she wants to keep this job as she likes how she feels she is making a difference in a more direct and immediate way than with her writing. However, she does say that journalism, especially reporting that would allow her to flex her economics knowledge, is her goal (“gotta use that degree”). For now, she is fine with the next few years being up in the air, far from the rigid structure she had planned when she arrived at Whittier. Galaviz is thinking of going back to college to get a MFA in Creative Writing or a Masters in Journalism or Economics.
Galaviz is a storyteller, a creator. Galaviz has been writing since a young age. When she was in middle school she published what she would now classify as a nonfiction story of her life on Wattpad (which garnered a bit of popularity). Since then she has written short stories that were published in The Greenleaf Review and, recently, an assignment for her creative nonfiction class about growing up in a sick family and how the way we memorialize and remember family and loved ones influences us. She has been collecting an anthology of her short stories that she hopes to one day publish. In addition to writing, Galaviz also sews and embroiders. Music is also a big part of her life and she has tried out different instruments, but always finds herself coming back to the piano.
Given Galaviz’ openness to change and personal development, it makes sense that one of her favorite genres of books is coming of age stories. “Honestly I drift towards supernatural, sci-fi, and dystopia because of the creative way that it reflects and discusses and gives a new context to our modern issues and our real world,” she said. Galaviz enjoys media and entertainment that can be enjoyed at face value, but also can have a deeper meaning when dissected. Similarly, Galaviz herself can often seem as though she is going with the flow, but (as it goes with anxiety) has a script to help guide her.
During our interview, Galaviz responds to one of my questions with “Oh, I actually wrote down an answer for that” before her Zoom camera switches off as she pulls up a document with prepared answers. Every so often, I would ask a question that would result in her camera switching off for her to pull up a prepared answer. While I had to laugh in surprise at some of the questions she had predicted, having answers prepared was not about trying to control what she reveals or even having an idea of a narrative she wants painted. She prepared these answers so she would have room to breathe, to calm her anxiety and give her space to be candid. Those who know Galaviz can see the ways that she can come across as a walking contradiction. Even when she is spontaneous, she has a plan. She is introverted, but loves driving her convertible Mustang and the way it seems unexpected of her. These are not opposites in Galaviz, but just some of the many ways she shows that finding comfortability in yourself is about embracing the parts of ourselves that can feel in conflict: like poetry and math.
Galaviz is in constant evolution. She said her boyfriend, Perez, is an inspiration because of the “heart and passion” he puts into everything, but the twists and turns in her college career show that Galaviz has never not done the same in her own life. After pushing herself for her entire life, post-graduation is the time for her to lean into “loosey-goosey” and embrace not tying her future up in the neat bows she had planned three years ago. Galaviz did not need to learn what it means to be human, but she constantly reminds those who work and know her what it means to put humanity, heart, and care into each step forward she takes.
Featured Image: Courtesy of Annalisse Galviz