Valentina Toledano
Class of 2024 graduate Valentina Toledano, B.A., political science, B.A., language science and minor in anthropology. (Steve Zylius/UC Irvine)

Currently pursuing B.A.s in political science and language science, first-generation college student Valentina Toledano aspires to become a museum director in Orange County.

Growing up in Santa Ana, she noticed that despite the population being largely minorities, most community-based spaces reflected a Eurocentric point of view. Through her work at museums, Toledano wants to highlight the narratives and experiences of marginalized identities. 

“Eurocentric curatorial practices have dominated the U.S. for many centuries,” she says. “But now there’s a shift in emerging artists and curators who want to make art galleries and museums more community-based.”

Toledano is an attendant at UC Irvine’s University Art Gallery, where she’s learning basic curatorial practices as well as how to install art and exhibitions. 

After she graduates, Toledano will continue her work at Crear Studio, an art gallery in Santa Ana that focuses on emerging artists from minority communities, and further foster her skills in managing a gallery space. 

In the future, she plans to seek a Ph.D. in anthropology. Toledano hopes this will better her career and help her move toward her ultimate goal of becoming a museum director.

What was your favorite class at UC Irvine?

My favorite class was Prisons and Public Education, by Damien Sojoyner [professor of anthropology]. It was about the historical and contemporary institutional barriers that created U.S. prisons and the school-to-prison pipeline. We read excerpts; watched conferences with Robin Kelley [UCLA historian and academic], Cedric Robinson [activist and UC Santa Barbara professor of Black studies and political science] and Ruth Wilson [prison abolitionist and scholar and professor of geography at City University of New York]; and had biweekly virtual class discussions. I appreciated how the readings are meant for students to critically analyze how punishment and education work together with the oppression of minorities and to converse about ways to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. When I took the class, I worked at the Student Outreach and Retention Center, and I believe about half of my co-workers were enrolled in Prisons and Public Education. It was nice to take a class with my co-workers because during our downtime, we would talk about the class. For any anthropology majors or minors, I highly recommend taking Prisons and Public Education! 

What makes you a proud Anteater?

My proudest Anteater moment was when I studied abroad in Madrid. In my political science classes, my professors emphasized the importance of international relations through real-life experiences. I took my learning outside the classroom by stepping outside my comfort zone and traveling 5,814 miles to a new country and immersing myself in its cultural and societal norms. Studying abroad was a wonderful experience to broaden my cross-cultural understanding and meet people from different backgrounds. I recommend that every continuing and prospective Anteater consider adding studying abroad to their college bucket list.

“Valentina is a model scholar who is rigorous and passionate about her research on Latinx museum spaces in Santa Ana. Her research reflects a deep commitment to interdisciplinary scholarship that thinks across different methods to accurately and ethically describe the experiences of Latinx arts spaces in her community. It has been an honor to serve as her thesis advisor, and I look forward to seeing the many contributions she will make in her various areas of interest.”

– Christofer Rodelo, assistant professor of Chicano/Latino studies

Read more #IamUCI – Class of 2024 stories