Vanessa Velasquez (Student)

Vanessa Velasquez poses in front of a tree on the Mississippi State campus.

Vanessa Velasquez’s desire for personal success was instilled in her from a young age.

When Vanessa’s mother was in her 20s, she moved from the South American country of Colombia to Vero Beach, Florida, in search of a better life.

“She couldn’t speak English and could have easily gone back home to her family, but she wanted me to have a chance,” explained Velasquez.

One of those opportunities was to get a quality education. Through babysitting for Mississippi State University graduates in Vero Beach, Velasquez decided to attend MSU.

Although she knew no one when she first arrived, Velasquez, an international business, marketing, and foreign language major, was inspired to get involved on campus.

“At MSU, it’s so easy to get plugged in and connect with other students,” she said.

Velasquez has served as a member of the Fashion Board, Maroon VIP, Bully’s Belles, Roadrunners, Student Association cabinet, and she has served as president of the College of Business Ambassadors.

She is a scholar of the national Hispanic Scholarship Fund, which has a three percent acceptance rate. Through the program, recipients are invited to conferences featuring Latino executives from successful companies who offer lessons in leadership and networking.

“We all have similar stories, and we can all relate,” she said.

The Hispanic Scholarship Fund also allows its recipients to give back to young Latinos. Through the Latino Leadership Institute at the University of Chicago, Velasquez mentors Latino high school students as they begin to think about college.

“Not only am I being helped, but I’m helping others too,” she said. “Selflessness is very important to me. That’s one of the things that attracted me to MSU—here, my peers have gone out of their way to help and encourage me.”

Velasquez is working hard for those who believe in her and is going to pursue a career in fashion when she graduates in May. She aspires to make everyone feel good about their bodies in the clothes they wear.

“I want to diversify the industry and allow people to realize that all shapes and sizes are beautiful,” she said.

Velasquez said MSU has given her the freedom and opportunity to figure things out on her own while being surrounded by great people.

“I’ve learned valuable life skills here—and felt welcomed everywhere I’ve been.”