photolgvEach month we choose a student for the OISS Student of the Month that exemplifies and highlights everything it means to not only be a Spartan but an international Spartan. We choose these students based on their accomplishments and their participation in the community. For the month of January, OISS chose: Luis Graciano Velazquez.

Luis is from Agua Dulce a municipality in the state of Veracruz, Mexico. Agua Dulce is home to about 48,000 people.

For most of Luis’ life, he has been curious about the things that bring us together. How media can be utilized as a mechanism to produce culture and create stronger bonds between us.

Luis has always been one to go against the mold to find his passion and explore life how he wants it. When he was 15 years old, Luis and his family moved to Mexico City, giving him more exposure to different career paths. His family pushed him to pursue a degree in engineering. However, Luis had other plans. He wanted a good paying career when he left college but for Luis, having a university education meant more than that. He wanted to use this opportunity to explore more, to delve deeper into what makes us human. That is why he decided to choose humanities as his field of study during his undergraduate degree.

“They forget the soul; it’s not all about making money its finding what makes us human” Luis described.

Undergraduate studies works a little bit differently in Mexico. While Luis could pursue a degree in Humanities, he needed a concentration to go along with it. He chose to concentrate his studies on the arts. It was of great importance of him and he was fascinated by it. Moreover, not just physical paintings, but any mode in which people utilized different techniques to express themselves and convey their culture. Therefore, Luis was fascinated with the evolution of expressions through history, how one could gain newfound insights on the past from different expressions.

His undergraduate studies was not the only thing that gave Luis the perspectives on life he has today, for two years before he completed his degree he worked on various cruise ships traveling across the Gulf of Mexico. An eye-opening experience brought him to different islands across the Caribbean and to the United States. Spending time in different ports gave him an incredible amount of exposure to cultures from around the globe. He was especially drawn to American culture during his time in US ports. He noted how he could see himself live in an environment like this.

While still in undergrad, some of his professors encouraged him to try out an American education and apply to the Fulbright Scholar program. The application was long and while it did take him multiple times to be accepted, Luis was not dismayed. He knew that this was the best chance to get the education he wanted to pursue his dreams.

Since the Fulbright application process can often take months, Luis wanted more experience to better prepare him for his studies in the US. Therefore, when Luis’ brother asked him about working with him in Arizona, he took that opportunity. It wasn’t exactly what he had envisioned doing, he was tasked with archival work at an aeronautics museum. Luis would explain that he didn’t have the faintest idea how airplanes worked or anything to do with them. However, Luis’ brother trusted him and he knew how good Luis was at archival work. Working in the museum gave Luis even more of a taste of how life in the US would be when he became a Fulbright Scholar.

When he finally was accepted into the Fulbright program the next challenge for Luis was finding the right university for him. After attending many college fairs and deliberating his options, Luis decided to go to MSU. He noted what drew him to the university. Taking a campus tour he was amazed at the vast amount of resources that students had at their disposal. Talking to some of the professors, he was excited to hear how passionate the professors were to his research and his passions.

Now at his second year at MSU, Luis is pursuing his PhD in Information Media specifically focusing on video games as a cultural mode of expression. Since he got his first ever Atari in 1987, Luis has always had a passion for video games. Here at MSU he now has more opportunities to do research into subjects he loves. While there is still a long way to go before finishing his thesis, he is excited to see where his research will take him.

Luis sees video games as manifestations of ourselves. So much so that the characters that we play in these video games can often affect our identities as well. As a result, our identities can become interwoven with characters on the screen, often molding our own to better fit the one we are controlling. He would go on to explain that not only our identities are defined in video games but how they can be a manifestation of culture building. Different cultural norms and representations can be portrayed in video games. This creates the opportunity for greater exposure to cultures and one’s own culture as well. Overall, Luis is excited to see how his research can be applied to different studies in the humanities.

For Luis there were challenges as he began PhD courses at MSU. Coming straight from undergrad to PhD, Luis was honest with me on how much more challenging the coursework has been. In his first year he mainly focused on adapting himself to the challenges of his research and his studies. However, he is incredibly grateful for the amazing support system he has around him. His professorial advisors have been instrumental in encouraging his research and keeping his morale high during difficult times of the year. He notes how different the relationships with his professors are here than what they were with his professors in Mexico during undergrad. Back in Mexico, there is a clear level of separation between students and the faculty. It would be rare to consider a professor one of your good friends or someone you would see often after classes were over. Here in the US he loves the informality of his relationships between him and his professors. He was surprised at how eager his professors were to build very personal relationships with him. This made transition into MSU much easier for Luis. Knowing that he could come to his professors whenever he faced challenges with his research gave Luis much more peace of mind.

Overall, Luis has had a fantastic experience at MSU. He says he does not mind the cold at all, the cold has been a nice change from the very hot climates he is used to. Now in his second year he has a small but very good group of friends that he likes to do things with. His friends and his professors have given Luis a very good support system to help him balance out his school life and his personal life. He describes that he can often at times be a very private person but his friends and his research help him get exposed to new people. Campus feels safe for him, Luis feels like he can express himself fully on campus without feeling judgement from others. Luis in the past has been used to putting things off or not having the best time management skills but he has no regrets on where is academic career has taken him and with each passing semester his ability to time manage gets better.

In his free time, Luis enjoys spending time with his friends. Although he does not participate in any clubs at the moment he is hoping next semester to find a club that fits him. He also volunteers about five to six hours every week to a website dedicated to offering a space to talk for people feeling depressed or with suicidal thoughts. All conversations are done entirely via text chat. Luis enjoys volunteering because he realizes many of these people are looking for someone to listen to them. Therefore, he wants be able to provide that service for people in need.

To wrap up our interview, I asked Luis if he any advice for new international students at MSU. He stressed how students should always research the different kinds of services offered on campus. To always reach out to your professors, they will offer a lot of the support you need in your first year or point you in the right direction. Finally, find your bubble, not just people from your home country but like-minded individuals as well. Finding people that fit into your bubble will make your experiences at MSU even better.

Luis hopes to build off his experiences at MSU even more. His bubble keeps expanding every year and he’s excited to share his research and start another chapter of his life. Since his time in Mexico, Luis has not forgotten about the soul and will carry forth the knowledge that life has showed him to impact those around him.



Tyler Perl is currently a senior majoring in International Relations. He will be graduation in May 2019 with his degree in IR. He also is minoring in Political Economy. Tyler plans after graduation to work in economic policy in Washington DC.

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