By Sierra Sizemore
Associated with Gloria Tso is a level of success and accomplishment that is nearly unmatched by her hometown peers.
She possesses a determination to make a life better for herself and those around her, not only in her immediate surroundings, but those all over the world. With a path and a plan set in motion, Tso fights toward equality and is passionate about social justice issues in our American society.
Tso is studying at the prestigious Columbia University in New York City and is set to graduate with bachelor’s degrees in both American studies and East Asian languages and cultures. Her route to higher education was preceded by not one, but two internships at the White House during the Obama administration. Tso speaks very highly of the former president and beams with pride when asked about her experiences.
“ I always joke that I peaked in high school because the two times I had the honor of meeting President Obama – once for the U.S. Senate Youth Program and once for Girls Nation – are still among the most impactful, most exciting, most overwhelming moments of my life,” Tso said.
Tso has had bylines in Business Insider and ABC News and has drafted, edited and fact-checked scripts for Good Morning America and CNN. Her accomplishments are vast, however, her proudest moments stem from helping others and not necessarily from achieving a new title or promotion.
“I realize some of my proudest accomplishments have been much smaller things and have stemmed from what one might consider losses,” Tso said. “I am proud of the times when I have pulled myself away from my laptop or my books during a stressful mid-terms season to go take care of a friend, even if I ended up losing some sleep or getting a mediocre grade. I am proud when I make the most out of a bad day. I am proud of the times I practiced self-care even after receiving those grades or maybe a rejection letter from an internship I applied for…and I am most proud of myself for the times I was able to be there for others in some capacity, whether that was reaching out to someone I’ve never met before or helping out someone I mentor.”
Gloria’s hometown peers saw her development and progression through the years. Students, millennials and above all, citizens, like Gloria Tso are potentially paving the path for change. Mitsuye Conover, Bartlesville High School AP Social Studies teacher, had a special connection with Tso.
“I knew since the moment I met her that she was different,” Conover said. “In my estimation, Gloria was more mature than most of her classmates. She had goals very early on. She knew what she wanted to accomplish and created a plan of what she had to do to set her plan into motion. With early success, she was able to modify and add to her plans as opportunities arose.”
Gloria Tso has had a lasting impact on everyone she has touched through her life. She actively takes time out of her day to help those in need and makes a point to reach out to her peers and the underserved. For instance, she volunteers weekly at the Double Discovery Center at Columbia University where she helps underprivileged youths apply for colleges. She is a part of the Columbia mentoring initiative through the International Student Family Tree, in which she helps international students assimilate to the university.
One of her current projects is with the Columbia University Life Events Council, where she serves as co-chair of inclusion and belonging on campus. The council is planning a drag themed karaoke event, which is set to be co-hosted by the Queer Awareness Month planning committee.
Tso is the marketing coordinator, or “campus ambassador”, for a company called Rent The Runway. RTR caters to women’s fashion and is a more affordable way to strut in designer fashion without the commitment and the full-price bill.
“This is the first semester I haven’t been interning off campus,” Tso said. “As a campus ambassador for Rent The Runway, I finally get to convert my full-time Instagram addiction into actual work.”
Fashion is one of many things Tso is passionate about. The list includes exploring her city, trying new foods and experiencing new things, but above all, helping others. Her peers would say Tso is a stand-out personality because of her ability to make genuine connections with others and remaining so true to herself and her morals. She gives credit to her parents for her motivation.
“Above all, I have to say I owe everything to my parents,” Tso said. “I work hard, but that also means I’m terribly hard on myself and it’s always my parents who help me put everything into perspective.”
According to her father, Chung Tso, Gloria’s boundless curiosity is what makes her outstanding.
“[We taught her] not to always follow the crowd, be honest, caring and compassionate and not to be afraid of failure,” Chung said.
Madeline Bostic, a senior in sociology at Oklahoma State University describes in photographic detail the best traits of Gloria Tso. Bostic was Tso’s closest friend in high school and the two still remain in touch. To add to the list of characteristics and achievements, Bostic describes Tso as a devoted friend and reliable ally.
“When I talk to her it’s not the uber successful, multi-talented 21 year old, it’s just Gloria,” Bostic said. “She’s brilliant obviously, but not in a way that makes her unapproachable or intimidating. I think it’s because she really does everything for herself. To better herself that is, and not to add to a list of accomplishments or put her above others.”
Often times our society associates success with wealth and material belongings, however, Tso disagrees. The key to any level of success is the desire to be better. Not financially or socially, rather better mentally and morally. According to Tso, success doesn’t stem from wealth, but by focusing on passions and finding a way to channel those into a benefit for the greater good. She does not have a definitive plan for her future, however, her goal is to work as a preeminent journalist, both in broadcast and in print. If there were ever a high-school superlative for “Most Likely to Destroy the Patriarchy”, Gloria Tso would be the one.
“It’s hard for me to say where I want to be in five years simply because I have lots of aspirations and seemingly so little time to accomplish it all,” Tso said. “I talk about bridging the cultural divide between East and West a lot, but I know that’s a lot easier said than done. I hope to make a tangible impact on that relationship in some way through my work as a journalist.”
Tso questions how her identity as an Asian-American journalist can help her fight for more diverse representation in the media and entertainment industries.
One of the most important lessons to learn from Tso is to live with no regrets and focus on what’s important. Focus on the present and appreciate the smaller things in life.
“I do subscribe to the belief that everything happens for a reason,” Tso said, “and I have enough faith in what I’m doing right now to say that no matter where I would’ve gone, I would eventually find my way back to what I hope to achieve as a student right here at Columbia. I do think the path I would’ve taken to get here would be different – I certainly wouldn’t have been able to intern at CNN or work with the United Nations but perhaps I would be an anchor for a campus TV station. I wouldn’t have the chance to try some of the foods I’ve tried at restaurants here, but maybe I would be a better cook.”
Tso’s positive outlook on life is inspirational and Oklahoma is proud to have bred such a shining example of humility. She believes her local roots played a role in her outlook on life and others.
“Growing up liberal and Asian-American in Oklahoma wasn’t easy,” Tso said. “But it challenged me to be able to communicate with those across the aisle, who harbored radically different political views and had very different upbringings. And so now that I’m on a super liberal campus in a liberal city, I find that I have a very different perspective of “the other side” compared to many of my classmates.”
Though Tso is kind and personable, she is forceful and unafraid to stand up for what she believes in. Growing up in Oklahoma taught her compassion and kept her mind open to opportunities. Above all, help others and possess the desire to be better; these are the keys to success.