deFreitas-Battersby embodies change, opportunity, and drive
in everything she
pursues. Virginia moved to the United States from Brazil with
her step-dad, mom, two younger sisters at the age of sixteen.
While learning the language and adapting to a different culture,
her heart remained in Brazil.
Virginia started at UNH as a business major,
but prior to finishing her first year she knew she wanted more.
Remembering all the inequality existent in Brazil, she wanted
to help people less fortunate, who did not have the opportunities
she has encountered. Her goal is to make a difference in people’s
life and be part of the leading change to help end global inequality.
During her time at UNH, Virginia has been working
to achieve that goal. She is currently a semester away from
graduating with a double major in International Affairs and
Political Science and minors in Latin American Studies and
Business Administration. During her first year, she was active
in taking leadership in programs that brought international
culture to the UNH campus. She has participated in a number
of cultural programs, in addition to joining MOSAICO.
Spring semester of sophomore year, Virginia studied
abroad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to expand her horizons on
global issues and to explore higher education in her native
country. In addition to school, Virginia volunteered in a favela,
or shanty town, teaching middle school children social studies
while exposing them to cultural activities outside of their
poor, drug filtered environment. She also connected with many
of her old friends and was reminded of all the opportunities
available to her that were and are not available to them. This
reality of inequality further inspired her to continue to keep
When she returned to the United States, Virginia
began making changes. Along with two of her friends, Emina
Zlotrg and Erica Bertolotto, Virginia helped found the Model
United Nations Student Organization. She felt that it was important
to raise awareness on global, political and economic issues.
She attended the Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Summit
to continue to learn how to be a leader and make a positive
change in people’s life. She participated in the first
Alternative Break Challenge international trip to Nicaragua
and helped build a handicap accessible playground and planned
activities for local women’s
groups and school children. In addition, Virginia also serves
as a Senior Mentor for the Connect Program, helping underrepresented
first year students adjust to college.
Her efforts are mirrored in her academics. Virginia
is a McNair Scholar and did her research on women’s political
involvement in Latin America, with Dr. Mary Malone from the
Political Science department. “Professor
Mary Malone has been the best mentor I could’ve asked
for, she has taught me and opened my eyes to the world of research”.
Virginia was awarded a Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship
(SURF) grant, which will allow her to continue her research
in Costa Rica.
In the classroom, Virginia draws inspiration
from courses like “Politics of Poverty” taught
by Dr. Malone in which global
inequality is explored in greater depth, and International
Affairs 501 taught by Dr. Funso Afolayan. Its diverse student
body offers refreshing perspectives and ideas on international
affairs issues. She also recommends Globalization Development & Poverty
with Dr. Joe Lugalla and International Approach to Child Advocacy
with Dr. Michael Kalinowski’s.
Virginia has been continually shaping her experiences
at UNH so they complement her values, morals and goals. In
the short term, Virginia hopes to pursue a PhD. in the area
of Human Rights Studies and Comparative Politics. Long term,
Virginia hopes to work for a non-governmental organization,
like the UNICEF. “I want to become an advocate to people
who are not as fortunate as I am and inspire others through
teaching at a university.”
Virginia’s attitude towards making a difference
in other people’s life, her passion for social
justice, and her drive to explore things beyond what a textbook
offers, will undoubtedly lead her to the change she desires.
She has taken advantage of all the
opportunities that have come across her path at UNH. Her experiences
and travels have taught her to appreciate everything that life
has to offer, like she says, “If UNH is offering it,
why not take advantage of it?”