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Focusing on People and the Moments that Matter Most: A Q&A with the Student Commencement Speaker

At BYU's Commencement exercises this month, Marcos Gallo will represent the graduates as the student speaker. Like his fellow classmates, Gallo, who is earning a bachelor's degree in economics with minors in mathematics, Chinese and international development, has accomplished a lot during his time at BYU. 

Marcos Gallo


In addition to his work with gender representation, Gallo has done extensive research on human trafficking prevention in Thailand. His honors thesis, “The Effect of Anti-Human Trafficking Ads on Support for Anti-Trafficking,” was presented at a national political science conference and will soon be submitted for publication. Because of his academic excellence, he was awarded the Brigham Award, the Robert K. Thomas Scholarship, a grant from the Jack and Marilyn Roberts fund and earned the distinction of Kennedy Scholar.

University Communications' intern Beau Jones recently met with Gallo to discuss his BYU experience and what advice he'd give other students. 

Question: I understand that you were born in Brazil and are a convert to the LDS Church. How did you end up here at BYU?

Marcos Gallo: My sister and I were born in São Paulo, Brazil, and raised Catholic by our parents. When I was 15 years old, I left for Oregon as a foreign exchange student and happened to find myself in the home of a very accepting LDS family. While I lived with them I remained open to their culture and customs (like going to church every Sunday). Once I went back home to Brazil, I reevaluated who I was and found that the Church and Gospel had become part of who I am. I got baptized when I was 16, and my mom and sister have since joined the Church. Then I got accepted into BYU and ended up serving a mission in Orlando, Florida.

Q: Between your major, three minors and your work with projects such as “We for She” and “The V-Project,” you seem to have a variety of interests. What are you hoping to do with your BYU education?

M.G.: Believe it or not, I actually started out as a chemical engineering major, but I quickly realized that I enjoyed studying people more than elements, so I made the switch to economics. To me, economics is interesting and helps us better understand the world around us. I feel like I can make a positive impact by continuing on with my research.

My interest in international development started after working with a lot of immigrants while I was on my mission. I decided that I really want to dedicate all that I can to helping others have a more fulfilling life. I can’t really think of a more meaningful goal.

Q: You are heading to Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China to pursue a master’s degree. Do you get a break for a summer vacation at all?

M.G.: Well, I’ll have a month to do some traveling in the U.S., but I will still be working on a couple of new projects. I'm researching discrimination against Muslims in Thailand. I'm also involved in a neuroeconomics project on the altruistic attitudes of recently returned LDS missionaries.

Q: Looking back on your BYU experience, what advice would you give to students still working toward graduation?

M.G.: I’ll talk more on this at Commencement, but most of what I have to say boils down to making memories. By that, I mean being balanced and doing your very best socially, spiritually, academically, etc. Our education and the memories we make here are going to be the foundation for how we live the rest of our lives. So why not make the most of it?

Writer: Beau Jones

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