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Meet Afternoon Spring Commencement Speaker Rachel Elena Gallina


Concluding an impressive academic and service-driven track record, Boise State is proud to present Rachel Elena Gallina as one of two Boise State University spring 2018 commencement speakers.

Gallina graduates with honors from Boise State with a bachelor’s in multidisciplinary studies, focused on economics political science, gender studies, and an Arabic studies minor. Many students have the intelligence, curiosity and drive to maintain a 4.0 GPA and earn national awards and accolades, however, few students have Gallina’s global awareness or passion for using her natural energy and talents to elevate the stories of others.

During her tenure at Boise State, Gallina has worked as an Albanian refugee interpreter; she worked with the Mary Ellen Ryder Linguistics lab to help launch a communication app designed to help local service providers better engage with Boise’s refugee community; and she returned to Kosovo, where she was raised, to develop an English language curriculum and teach women’s empowerment classes.

In 2016, Gallina won a Boren Scholarship – a prestigious award that supports applicants’ work in foreign countries to become fluent in less commonly taught languages. With this scholarship, Gallina traveled to Israel and Palestine, where she used her burgeoning Arabic skills to join reconciliation activities and worked as photographer at business training programs, seminars and conferences. While there, she also worked as a social justice advocate for the Haifa Feminist Center, conducting research for a report on gender-based violence in Palestine, and volunteered for a variety of peace activist groups that routinely traveled to the Jordan Valley to rebuild homes and walk alongside Bedouin shepherds caught in political conflict.

“Rachel is a learner foremost, and then a student,” said Shelton Woods, associate dean of the Honors College. “She also writes about hidden lives and brings them to our attention. She does this because she seeks out the voiceless and disenfranchised and, to their amazement, wants to know them. Her ability and willingness to interact with everyone – no matter their background – provides her readers with a full-orbed picture of her topic.”

Gallina was named a 2017 Harry S. Truman Scholar for Idaho and a 2017 Rhodes Scholar finalist.

Following graduation, Gallina will serve as an intern for the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Near East Asian Affairs. Building on her years documenting and communicating the stories of Arab women caught in both political and physical conflict, she one day hopes to earn master’s degrees in public policy and women’s studies at Oxford University.

“I want to serve as a conduit between on-the- ground, grassroots-level activism geared towards female empowerment and the efforts of international governing bodies,” Gallina said. “Often those two spheres struggle to work in conjunction, particularly during times of disaster. I hope one day in my position to lend a listening ear to those directly on the ground, and have enough credibility and power to make policy-level transformation.”

The afternoon commencement ceremony begins at 3:30 p.m. in Taco Bell Arena.