Joel Ibarra and Alexandria Walker from Colorado State University’s College of Health and Human Sciences are winners of the “Service Learning and Leadership” category of the 2022 Multicultural Undergraduate Research Art and Leadership Symposium.
Ibarra, a third-year construction management student, won first place in the “Service Learning and Leadership” category for his presentation titled, “Construct, Build, Assemble Diversity.”
Walker, a fourth-year nutrition and food science student, was awarded third place in the same category for her presentation “The Intersection of Oral Health and Overall Health.”
MURALS invites students from diverse backgrounds to present their projects orally and visually in a poster gallery, with feedback from graduate students and faculty. The objective is to connect students to mentoring, networking, and leadership opportunities within their discipline.
This year, the event was held on March 25 and was a resounding success. It allowed for a resurgence of collaborative energy for research, art, and leadership by students from diverse backgrounds. After so many months of limited collaboration due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MURALS is a wonderful way to demonstrate the power of diversity and teamwork.
There were 15 students selected as winners in the following categories: Creative Arts, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Service Learning and Leadership, Social Sciences/Humanities, and STEM, with one student selected as an overall winner.
Ibarra’s presentation “Construct, Build, Assemble Diversity” highlights the demographics of the student body at CSU, CHHS, and the construction management department, where approximately 23% are students from diverse backgrounds and about a quarter of students are first-generation. Women are underrepresented in the construction industry and the department has been working to increase the number of women students as well, currently at about 13%. Ibarra’s project involved further contributions to the CSU and CM program commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive environment.
“As a first-generation student studying in the Construction Management Program at CSU, I experienced culture shock and began to fall under the impression that I was an imposter in an environment that was all new to me,” Ibarra said. “As time progressed, the disparities I possess as a first-generation student began to hinder me individually.”
Ibarra’s experiences as a first-generation student are what motivated his project. In it, he outlines his plan to create a mentorship program for first-generation and institutionally minoritized students within construction management.
Ibarra’s course of action to implement such a program involves connecting with first-generation alumni and students, partnering with the construction management program and already-established mentorship programs, developing roles for mentors and mentees within the program, and, finally, getting word of the program to students who may be interested in joining.
His long-term goals for the program include financial assistance, internship opportunities, and mentorship for first-generation and minority students.
Walker, from Aurora, Colorado, was drawn to CSU for its atmosphere and excellent nutrition program, as she plans to attend dental school after she graduates.
She was inspired to create her presentation “The Intersection of Oral Health and Overall Health” after volunteering at a homeless shelter and witnessing the lack of dental hygiene products that were donated to the shelter. Many people think to donate food and clothing, but dental hygiene products, though equally important, often are neglected.
“My project aims to gather donations of dental hygiene items from local dentists to supply local low income and homeless people of Fort Collins through the Fort Collins Rescue Mission,” said Walker. “So far, I have collected over 300 toothbrushes and numerous other dental hygiene items.”
Walker hopes to help prevent many diseases and health issues that are associated with a lack of dental care in the homeless community.
Walker expressed tremendous gratitude towards MURALS for giving her the opportunity to educate others on an issue that few would normally give much thought to.
“Being chosen as a winner both surprised and encouraged me to keep striving towards my goals and helping to fill the gap,” Walker said. “I plan on using the prize money to put towards more dental hygiene items for those in need.”
Congratulations to our MURALS winners!