As a first-generation college student and first-generation Ukrainian-American, Victoria Katsuba says the biggest lesson she’s learned in her years at Colorado State University is that you never know what the future holds.
Two months after she began her first year, her father died of a heart attack. The shocking sudden loss at a time when Katsuba’s life was already in so much transition was difficult, she said. But it also shaped how she approached life’s challenges going forward.
Throughout her time at CSU, Katsuba – who is getting her degree in communications studies with a double minor in business and Russian – has made a point of always moving forward and actively seeking out connections with others.
When a years-in-the-planning study abroad trip ended early due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Katsuba immersed herself in even more organizations where she could meet students from diverse backgrounds. While feeling helpless as the war in Ukraine continues to threaten her family there, she continues to work hard to create balance in her own life, even though sometimes it doesn’t seem possible. She understands that it’s important to spread awareness and acknowledge both the tragedies and privileges that have surfaced because of the war.
“Katsuba, who has family and loved ones in the war zone, excelled in the Capstone Class Communicating Globally, and enriched our understanding of the ongoing war, showing impressive resilience,” said nominator and Associate Professor of Communications Julia Khrebtan-Hoerhager.
“I constantly feel like I don’t know what’s going to happen or what the future holds,” Katsuba said. “But at the same time, I know that every story has its place, and I think that no matter how negative or positive, all of those stories – whether it’s studying abroad or my dad passing away or the war in Ukraine – made me into the person I am today, and I think that’s one of the biggest foundations I have always held on to.”
In their own words
Q. What led you to pursue a major in communication studies?
I actually didn’t know I was going to go into communication studies when I first entered CSU. So, when I got here, I decided to explore my options. I was initially thinking of going into business. Then, my advisor told me, “Victoria, you’re taking a lot of communication classes. Maybe you should major in that.” I realized that communication studies provided a wide range of skills and understanding of communication itself, an ability that’s useful in any field I’ll ever go into. Over time, I also decided to double minor in Russian and business to elevate my career options.
Q. What was the most rewarding part of your CSU experience?
I think the most rewarding part of my experience at CSU was getting involved and meeting new people. It’s a privilege to have so many opportunities available and attend a university, especially as a first-generation American and college student. You never know who you will encounter and what you will learn from them. Every experience holds value. Over my five years attending college, I’ve gotten involved in various events and programs, including Academic Advancement Center, Key Explore/Plus, First-Generation Organization, African United, Russian Club, and currently I hold roles as an Inclusive Community Assistant and Information Specialist. All these experiences helped me understand myself and build a community within my environment.
Q. What is your advice to incoming students at CSU?
Always ask what you can get involved in and truly make the experience your own. It might look different from your peers, but there’s no right answer. There are endless opportunities that arise if you just ask. You might even see them listed on a poster or hear someone talking about it. It can be anything from joining a club, being part of Ram Welcome or going to see a documentary series, like the ACT Human Rights Festival. These options not only assist you after college but help enrich your everyday life with knowledge and memories. Also, if you can, please take the time to study abroad as it will be something you will never regret or forget.
Q. What’s your favorite memory of being a student at CSU?
One of my favorite memories was being part of Ram Welcome in 2019, right before COVID-19 hit. My two friends and I were volunteering for more than 60 hours in a span of a week and a half. Everyone was pumped to start school, and it was amazing seeing so many new faces who were as excited as I was engaging with the campus traditions. You meet different students from places all around the world and build leadership skills that will last forever.
Q. What are your plans for after graduation?
I still have so many different ideas. I like to think I have a growth mindset and so I feel like I can grow in any way. It doesn’t necessarily matter where I go. I’m looking at going into marketing, but my number one goal right now is that in two years I want to work outside the U.S. and travel as much as I can. Eventually, I’d like to go to grad school for computer Information systems and build my own business. But we’ll see how life goes. I’m seeing things one way right now, but life can just always give you a different trajectory.