Outstanding human development and family studies grad doubles as outstanding student leader and volunteer

Tanajha Putman sitting outside with white dress, white shoes, and tan bag

Tanajha Putman has been outstanding from the day she walked onto the Colorado State University campus. As a first-generation college student who identifies as Black/African American, Putman dove into student organizations, involvement, and volunteer work to make the most of her experience.

Overcoming hardships during her first year of college, Putman utilized her new community for support, finding that her choice to come to CSU was better than she imagined.

“I am fortunate to have been Tanajha’s adviser and instructor since day one of college,” said Lindsey Toper, an academic success coordinator in Human Development and Family Studies. “She has transformed into a fantastic student and has been so involved in giving back to CSU’s community and campus. I’m so proud of her and her accomplishments.”

In their own words

Tanajha Putman sitting outside on bench
Putman found her home at CSU through the B/AACC center and Key Communities.

Q. Where are you from and what brought you to CSU?

I was born and raised in Waterloo, Iowa. My mom decided to move our entire family to Denver, Colorado right before I started high school to give us more life opportunities outside of our little hometown. To answer the other half of the question, CSU was the second campus I got to tour, and I fell in love with the atmosphere. I thought it was so wholesome to see so many students outside in hammocks and riding bikes. Also, the campus was beautiful.

But what really made me want to come here was when the tour guide took us to stop by the cultural centers and Student Diversity Programs and Services offices. We went into the Black/African American Cultural Center (B/AACC), and they were playing good music, vibing, and having fun conversations. All I knew was I wanted to come back to CSU permanently just so I could go back to the B/AACC office.

Q. What obstacles have you overcome to get to graduation? How have you persevered through unforeseen circumstances?

I’ve faced so many obstacles to finally get to this point, which makes me even more proud of myself. During my freshman year, I lost two very close family members, which impacted me and my family tremendously. Not only that, but at the time my family was struggling both emotionally and financially, so I was genuinely dealing with a lot of issues at home while also trying to navigate college by myself as a first-generation student.

Originally, I never thought seriously about going to college until my senior year of high school. It wasn’t something that really crossed my mind. It’s funny, though, because I always loved school and giving myself a challenge, which led to me taking a handful of college courses during my junior and senior years of high school.

During my freshman year of college, I fell into a dark place mentally and emotionally because I was dealing with so much at once. However, I had so many people around me who encouraged me not to give up. Those people were my family, friends, and especially everyone within the Key Community (my key mentor and key advisor). Being a part of Key Communities played a significant role in my success as a first-generation student. I couldn’t imagine how different my experience would have been without the support of key and especially my mentor, David. I pushed through it all and reevaluated what I wanted in this life and what I’m doing this for.

Q. How have your academic experiences here and your professors, mentors, and advisers helped you overcome these obstacles and/or be successful in your major?

Other than my awesome family, Key Communities was a big support system for me when navigating college. I had no idea how college worked. I was so nervous about making friends because I didn’t have any friends at CSU prior to coming here. I didn’t know how to properly study because high school was very different compared to college, but Key made sure to meet those needs and overall made the transition easy. We had clusters, so being able to have the same 15-20 people in more than half of my classes made it much less overwhelming.

I can’t talk about my success without mentioning my adviser, Lindsey Toper. I was lucky to get such an awesome and helpful adviser who was so supportive of my personal success and goals. It felt like she genuinely cared. I know a lot of people have struggled with their advisers, so I am incredibly grateful for Lindsey.

Q. What activities have you been most involved in?

I do a lot of nonprofit work, mostly in the Denver community. I was the talent outreach/stage manager/event coordinator for the nonprofit 10 for 10. We put on events such as “Black Men Feed Denver,” community art pop-up shop/fashion shows, spoken word events, community empowerment events, and so much more.

Now, I’m currently an engagement specialist at the I Have a Dream Foundation for youth and families. This is also my third semester as a youth mentor/mentor coach at Campus Connections. Last semester I was a case management intern for Campus Connections, and the semester before that, a youth mentor. Because I’ve been so heavily involved with Campus Connections, I will also be receiving a youth mentoring certificate. Some other things I have been involved in here at CSU include various clubs such as the Artistry Club, United Women of Color, SOUL, and many more.

Q. What are some accomplishments that you are most proud of during your time at CSU?

Honestly, I have so many accomplishments I am proud of; graduating is my biggest and proudest moment. It tops everything. It took a lot to make it here!

Q. What will you miss most about CSU?

I will miss going to the rec, taking walks around campus, the free walrus ice cream at the foundry, the B/AACC office community, and Old Town Fort Collins.

Q. What are your plans after graduating?

I plan on going to grad school in a year or two to obtain my master’s degree, but for right now, I have two new positions that I will start in the summer. The first is a youth mental health counselor at the Third Way Center in Denver and the other position is an engagement specialist at the I Have a Dream Foundation in Denver.

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.