When deciding on a college, Yitazba Largo-Anderson ’19 needed to look no further than her own family for sound advice. “My dad is a professor and my mom is a librarian, and they value education,” she explains. “They urged me to go to a liberal arts school because they knew it would help me round out who I am as person.”
The campus beauty and “a really strong creative writing program” are what Yitazba says drew her particularly to Hollins after living most of her life in Phoenix, Arizona. “I came here not knowing what I wanted to study, I’m interested in so many things,” she adds. After taking classes from several disciplines, she chose to major in English with a concentration in multicultural literature and a minor in social justice.
Yitazba describes her Hollins experience as “finding the power of my voice,” and she cites the crucial roles many faculty members have played in that quest. “[Professor of English] TJ Anderson, [Professor of English] Pauline Kaldas, and [former Visiting Assistant Professor of English] Nick Miller challenged me to think differently and critically about literature, how it was going to impact me, and what I was going to take from it.”
Those lessons deeply influenced the ways she has transformed her love of writing poetry.
“Poetry to me is not only something you read or that’s visual. It’s also very sensory. I love doing music with my poetry.”
Yitazba’s talent for expression evolved when she met Mary Eggleston, a voice instructor in Hollins’ music department. “I had never taken voice lessons before, and Mary helped me come out of my shell with singing. I’ve never had someone teach me how to challenge my voice to go higher than it did the week before, or become a sound that carries in a room.” This spring for the first time, she sang opera for a campus recital.
Last year, Yitazba felt another important breakthrough while participating in theatre. “Hollins professors make suggestions to one another about students who could benefit from some activity. [Professor of Anthropology and Gender and Women’s Studies] LeeRay Costa talked to Rachel Nelson in the theatre department about asking me to play a part in a production she was directing. I’m shy and I never considered being on stage, but I loved it. I want to speak my poetry more now in public, and instead of just submitting my work for publication, I’d like to get into slam poetry.”
Yitazba’s roots are Scotch-Irish and Diné (the Navajo Nation’s preferred name, it translates to “of the people”), and while she has always been attached to Native American culture through her grandmother, she never had the opportunity to engage in a serious exploration of Native American studies until she came to Hollins. “It was the first time I had ever experienced a whole class dedicated to Native American women and taught by a Native American woman, [Visiting Instructor of Sociology] Shari Valentine.”
Yitazba will spend the next year engaged in a fellowship at the College of William and Mary’s Swem Library. She’ll be working with their Project Outreach initiative on making inclusivity and diversity more prevalent in academic research. She then hopes to attend law school and focus on some aspect of Native American law, but doesn’t intend to make a legal career her lifelong vocation.
“I’d like to get an M.F.A. in creative writing after law school and eventually teach Native American voice through poetry in conjunction with Native American studies. My parents and my professors have all inspired me – Shari Valentine has especially been a constant source of encouragement, and I want to make an impact on a student like she’s done for me. I want to pass that gift down to someone.”