Tania Odesho

Tania Odesho

Dean's Scholar

Humanities
College of Humanities & the Arts

 

Why did you choose your major?

There were two things that tiny Tania wanted to become when she grew up: a cartoon voice actor and a professor. Although I still mute the movies and dub my own voices for fun, my passion for storytelling and lecturing paved the way towards the field of academia. The specific major I chose, Humanities Concentration Religious Studies, is due to my intense fascination and constant struggle with religion in this world. Socrates is quoted to have said that the unexamined life is one not worth living, and I find that to be especially true when it comes to analyzing religion, spirituality, and its manifestation in the world around us. Growing up in a not-so-great religious environment really prompted me to look for the answers on my own, through an academic lens. Yet my analysis would be nothing without my Women Studies minor, since gender studies is ultimately with what I am infatuated. I’ve always been a fiery feminist and this major keeps giving
me that fuel.

 

What does receiving this particular award mean to you?

Receiving this means many things. On the surface level it means I am smart, or so people will think. However, receiving this award on a much deeper level means that I have made it. I have accomplished something that is incredibly difficult for people in circumstances like mine. My life has never been easy, and I have faced a lot of adversity. My studies have kept me constant; they have kept me sane really. This award means that I can tell young women and girls who doubt their intelligence and capability that I was able to do it and so can they. I want to give back to the world, and in order to do that I need to make sure I am “qualified” for lack of a better way of putting it. This award makes me feel qualified to make some changes.

 

Who has been influential in your life and/or who has contributed to your academic success?

When asked these questions, I begin to empathize with actors and singers who have to fit every single person they love into a two and half minute speech after winning an award, usually
forgetting to mention their dads or something after the fact. However there are certain groups of people I feel I need to recognize, as well as some specifics. First off is my mother. As one who emigrated to the U.S. with nothing but a new husband and a fear of change, she managed to raise my brother and I with so much compassion, care, understanding, and pride that we felt we could do no wrong. She made us believe we were capable of doing anything, since she was and
still is. I also have to thank my dearest friends, a handful of very loud-and-proud young women who have stuck with me throughout the most awkward times in middle school until now. Furthermore, I must thank my sibling, my dear gym-rat
brother, and my mother’s siblings who have aided me in intense times. Yet this goes without saying that my De Anza and San Jose State Professors guided me in ways that was more than mere academic. They taught me about life, love, defeat, loss, success, fear, and most importantly courage. That I can never be thankful enough for.

 

Did you overcome any hardships or adversities in your life that have helped shape who you are today?  And if so, could you please briefly elaborate?

I have always believed that my life is some kind of novel in the making, and I don’t mean some grandiose or Baroque fiction that details woes, yet my story would be written in a kind of broken, scrambled, and sometimes pathetic dialectical between me and the forces that be above, the ones I have worshipped, renounced, cursed, and worshipped again. It’s very difficult for me to discuss all the hardships I have gone through, but what I can say is that if there were boxes I had to check in it would include: car accidents, eating disorders, family fights, psych wards, financial instability, sudden episodes of moving, health struggles, and intolerance to spicy foods. I know it sounds very strange to say it in a kind of curt and almost crass manner, yet sometimes when you are convinced you or someone you love almost died, you have to laugh after everything somehow turns out alright. And it does turn out alright. These moments in life that people have told me “most don’t make it” are the scars and badges I wear proudly that assure me I can take anything and I can most certainly handle anything. I have become not only so much stronger, more focused, and more intense in my work, yet I have become more compassionate, empathetic, and understanding of the pains this world throws onto people. I would have never turned out the way I did with all this fire were it not for those moments that tried to burn me out.

 

What would you say to other students to encourage or inspire them to attain academic excellence?

There are definitely a few things I would say. First of all, when people tell you that you cannot do it, do it twice. In their face preferably. I work at a high school as a speech and debate coach and I constantly tell my students to believe in themselves. Nothing is possible without self-belief, self-assurance, and most importantly self-love. Secondly, I will tell them that it is okay to ask for help, if anything it makes you stronger. It also creates more connections which is not only good for your resume but also your soul. Resources are an incredible thing; had I not taken advantage of various resources here on campus I would probably not finish college, and I don’t just mean financial resources. Thirdly, I would encourage students to really examine themselves and to not be afraid of taking breaks when needed. Everyone needs to recharge and everyone certainly deserves it. I want all the folks entering college to know that they can do it. There is nothing that states in stone they cannot and if there is they should shatter it.

 

How do you envision yourself in 5-10 years?

Ideally I would like to see myself finishing up my Ph.D program looking for a house on the beach with a dorky husband, a poofy dog, a purple car, and a big heart filled with joy. Realistically I will probably be pulling my hair out in grad school. However I think what is most important in this vision of myself is that I am happy, healthy, and intelligent. I want knowledge. I love knowledge for the sake of, not merely as a tool to gain something. I envision myself still hungry to learn. And I hope that hunger to learn is contagious to my future college students.

 

A few words from her nominating professor:

Working her way through school, Tania has faced many financial as well as academic challenges in her effort to complete a BA degree as a top student in order to go to graduate school.  Beyond earning good grades, she has become a first rate scholar in the area of women and religion, impressing all her professors with her research and writing skills.  If we’re lucky, someday she will return to the CSU as a professor.

- Professor Chris Jochim