When Gabriela Igloria started at Old Dominion University, she didn’t have the typical freshman experience of being lost on campus.
Instead, she gave directions.
“It is a little like a second home in some ways because I knew where everything was as soon as I got here,” she said.
That’s because as the daughter of Luisa A. Igloria, Louis I. Jaffe Professor of Creative Writing and English at ODU, she would often tag along to her mom’s classes in the Batten Arts and Letters Building as a child.
Her mother, who is poet laureate emerita for Virginia, instilled in her a love for language at an early age.
“We would do this thing every night where we would just flip to a random page in the dictionary and then I would learn a new word and we would put it on this big wall in our hallway,” Igloria said.
This December, she will graduate with two bachelor’s degrees in English and women’s and gender studies and a minor in queer studies. She is also a member of ODU's honors college and received the Anita Clair Fellman Endowed Service-Learning Scholarship.
Like her mother, she is already an accomplished and talented poet.
During her sophomore year, she won the undergraduate prize in poetry from the Academy of American Poets for her poem “Dreamscape with Winter, Ghost.” In 2017, her poem “Lessons” was published in the Rattle Young Poets Anthology.
Cathleen Rhodes, master lecturer in ODU’s Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, said she has known Igloria since she was young and watched her grow up near and around the campus. “She is her own person, but Gabby shares her mother’s generosity of spirit, sharp intellect and creative talents.”
“It is a little like a second home in some ways because I knew where everything was as soon as I got here."
More than just a poet, Igloria also enjoys writing nonfiction and creating zines – hand-made, self-published works that incorporate original or appropriated texts and are designed to be easily circulated.
She said she likes to explore many topics in her work, from her Filipino heritage to environmental issues to local history. While taking one of Rhodes’ queer studies classes, she discovered that her family’s church had queer history associated with it.
“I like doing the sort of nerdy, archival research type of thing and making it something more personal,” she said.
She also likes to write about things that “haunt” people. Her “Dreamscape …” poem was a pantoum – a 15th-century Malaysian verse form with repeating lines – that helped her process the loss of two childhood friends.
“That’s really interesting to me, as well as how people themselves are not just the haunted but the haunting of their ancestors because of the way we dwell on things,” she said.
“She has an inquisitive approach to learning that helps her make striking connections between various subjects, and she invites others to share in conversations that, in addition to sometimes providing answers, raises other important questions,” Rhodes said.
Outside of writing, Igloria served as cultural liaison and then president of ODU’s Filipino American Student Association. In these roles, she tried to keep the history behind Filipino events and traditions front and center.
“There are a lot of things about Filipino culture that are maybe more well known, but also more commodified,” she said. “So I wanted people to be more aware of what they’re consuming.”
After graduation, Igloria plans to take a break before considering work or graduate school.
“I cannot begin to predict Gabby’s future,” said Rhodes. “I think anything I could imagine would be too limiting given her vision and talents, so I look forward to waiting and finding out what her future holds.”