Her Campus Graduating Cutie: Tori Dickson '19

From a small town in Massachusetts, Tori Dickson moved to D.C. to study public relations with a minor in literature. Along the way, she’s held a variety of titles, but somehow made time to spend her senior year as the Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus at American. We took the time to sit down with her and discuss what the last four years of undergrad taught her, the future of our print magazine and her love for her grandmother. 

HCAU: You’re from a pretty small town. How was moving to a city for you?

Tori Dickson: I like it! I plan on living in cities for the majority of my professional career. Small towns are nice because they give you opportunities to grow that cities don’t. I wouldn’t have stepped into the leadership roles that I stepped into when I was in high school if I didn’t go to a school that had 80 kids in my graduating class. I was picked for things that, in big schools, I wouldn’t have been picked for, like speeches.

Going to the city was a huge shock. You realize that you’re just a person and that it’s fine to not only make mistakes, but also it’s fine to allow yourself to fail. I also just needed more diversity in my life. I needed to be exposed to more and AU does that for you. I think everyone should get out of their small town at least once in their life because it’s a bad way to live in an insular community like that. 

HCAU: For people that are coming from small towns, scared of messing up, what’s your advice? 

TD: You have to allow yourself to get beat up, to make mistakes and to say the wrong things. Some people are going to be jerks about it, but other people will help you and make you understand why it is that you shouldn’t think that way or why it is that you do think that way. Just leaning into that discomfort is the first step.

HCAU: What are some moments, events or even objects that were staples of your college career?

TD: My study abroad experience, for sure. That’s a really stereotypical answer, but when I went abroad it was the first time that I left the country. I went on a plane for the first time in college. I left the country for the first time in college. I bought my first luggage. In general, my family didn’t really leave New England.

When I was abroad, I could take it moment by moment. I picked a curriculum that I knew the majority of my learning would be the experiences that I chose to have and the people I chose to meet. I’m never really just being with people, but when I was abroad I could sit in cafes and talk for hours and hours and let the day melt away. 

And obviously, Her Campus. The first Woman of the Year that I went to I was like, “Oh this organization uplifts inspiring women. I want to be a part of that.” That led me further down the Her Campus path to take on bigger roles in it. 

HCAU: I wanna hear more about print and what you hope they carry on with it. It was really your baby this year! 

TD: Last fall, I went to the print release party and I was so enamored by all the work that all these other media organizations were doing. Her Campus produces amazing articles and we work really hard on them, but the way that the website is structured doesn’t have a lot of longevity. And I’ve always loved print. Something about holding a tangible book makes you feel more connected to the stories being told. I wanted that for our writers. I thought it would be something that they would not only get really into, but it would also encourage them to dive deeper into their stories.  

I want writers to be more encouraged to look at things happening on campus from different angles and taking two or three pages to really go into what their interest is. I would love if Her Campus did more investigative research and picked up a lot of visual elements that have been missing. Print gives us the opportunity to collaborate with other creative minds and see how the writing and visuals work together in an interesting way. And I want us to find our own niche, too. As time goes on, that will become more defined. 

Every single year, I don’t care if I’m in my forties, I want a print magazine! I just want to see it keep going. 

HCAU: Do you see yourself working in print in the future?

TD: No.

Tori laughed. 

HCAU: Just got really into it?

TD: It’s just one of those things that I’ve always really loved! I really like literary magazines and long form investigative journals in general, like The Atlantic and The New Yorker. I’ve always loved that style of journalism. I just wanted an opportunity for Her Campus to do that, too. 

In the future I want to do social impact public relations, so it’s very different. 

HCAU: How is that working out for you? Her Campus is an online magazine, so public relations is a little outside of that. 

TD: My life in Her Campus compared to my professional career have been very different. My internships have all been at nonprofits, doing social impact projects for them. I worked at No Kid Hungry, 826DC and National Geographic. By doing all of those things, I realized that I’m interested in all aspects of communication, but what I really want is to communicate for a good cause. I don’t care if it’s childhood hunger or climate change or getting kids to read. I just like knowing that my skills can be translated into making a meaningful difference. 

HCAU: You also mentioned that you’re a literature minor. What book has changed your life?

TD: So many. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith was the quintessential coming-of-age novel that defined a lot of my teen years. I read it when I was 13 and it was one of my grandmother’s favorite books so I had that connection with it. When I was younger, I used to write quotes from books and put them up on my wall—

HCAU: On like lined paper?

TD: Yeah, all over my walls. Other teens had like Justin Bieber posters and I had Hemingway. But I had so many quotes from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn so that’s how I know it meant a lot.

Also Ellen Hopkins. She was just a really great writer. I really like classics, too like Jane Austen. My favorite book is The Secret History by Donna Tartt. 

HCAU: You named so many great female authors. Any other role models or people you look up to that happen to be women?

TD: I ask this question to everyone that I interview and they always say their mom. I’m not going to say my mom, but I am going to say my grandmother which is very similar! My grandmother is genuinely the most caring, beautiful, wonderful lady to ever grace this earth. She has my entire heart. 

HCAU: Is she still around?

TD: Yeah, she’s 89. When I was younger, I was at my grandma’s house constantly. She defines so much of what I believe in. If I didn’t spend as much time with her as I did, then I would have a very different outlook on life. 

She’s so inspiring. She didn’t go to college, but right after school she started working at a newsroom. Just her work ethic and what she believes women can do is really great. She didn’t have all the opportunities that I have and I can tell that when I talk to her she’s so proud of me. It’s because of her that I’m here. 

She’s so intelligent and cares so much about the people around her. She loves talking to me about the life outside our small town even though she’s never really lived in it. When I say she spent her entire life in this town, I’m not kidding. Her biggest trip was to D.C. for her honeymoon. She’s so worldly without even having to leave just from what she’s read. I owe her everything. 

HCAU: I am going to cry. That is so sweet!

TD: I know, I’m tearing up. 

HCAU: We’ve already covered a lot, but I have two more things to wrap up. First, what are three words you’d use to describe yourself?

TD: Ambitious. Honest. Uncertain. 

HCAU: And where do you see yourself in five years?

TD: I want to create change with the work that I do. I’m coming to terms with the fact that they might not be my first step, but the thing about first steps is that you always take more afterwards. In the future, I hope to be working in some capacity with PR helping people. 

Before we parted, Tori admitted that college does not look the same for everyone and that she had faced her own frustrations with it. “College isn’t the best four years of your life,” Tori said. “There’s always a sense of overwhelming anxiety, but it truly does get better. Life is so many little opportunities for you to find your bit of happiness, but don’t expect to find it right away or because someone else found it where you currently are.” From writer to Editor-in-Chief, Tori helped Her Campus at American grow into the organization it is today. We can’t wait to see where the post-graduate world takes her.