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University of Colorado Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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Puksta Scholars

In the Summer of 2013, the Department partnered with the Denver-based Puksta Foundation to launch an innovative program. Because both the Department and the Puksta Foundation are committed to producing 21st century civic leaders dedicated to social justice, we have built a three-semester-long program that merges hands-on leadership opportunities in the community with world-class intellectual challenges. Our Puksta Fellows will do social-justice based internships, write senior theses about their experiences, and will then combine their internship and classroom experiences in a capstone experience. The Puksta Foundation and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences have partnered to pledge $45,000 in support of tuition for our Puksta Fellows.

2014 Puksta Scholars 

Alex Landau is earning his BA in Communication with a Minor in Social Justice. He is the president of the NAACP Auraria Chapter. In the short time they have been an activate chapter, they have engaged in several collaborative events on the campus to raise awareness about social inhumanities that consistently take place in our world today. He is a survivor of extreme police violence, and his passion to battle injustice comes from his brutal experience. He has been a front line activist in Wyoming, San Francisco, Seattle, Florida, Guatemala, and Detroit. As a Puksta Scholar, he is an intern with the Colorado Progressive Coalition. This organization works to end the injustice caused by mass incarceration. On July 9th, 2014, he helped organize a march from the Wellington Webb Building to the City Jail in memory of Marvin Booker. The march was a show of solidarity for all who have been victims of police brutality.  

Alicia Lucero is finishing her BA in Communication with an emphasis in Organizational Communication and Public Relations. Her focus is on Educational Justice. In West Denver, where she was born and raised (and still resides) only 50% of students graduate from high school, while no more than 5% of children go on to receive a college degree. As a Puksta Scholar, she is completing her fellowship at STRIVE Prep Schools. Her responsibilities include informing families of the college-prep education STRIVE Prep has to offer, via community outreach events, grassroots organizing, and by utilizing media outlets. Alicia is interested in the shared identities of different social groups and their respective communication styles, namely individualistic and collectivist identities, and how they create tension between individuals and groups who identify more strongly with one or the other.  

Jeremy Make is interested in how communication between patients and providers can be used as a support in end-of-life care. His nearly decade-long work at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and his deep commitment to the arts combine in his Puksta fellowship with the Life Quality Institute, a patient- and family-centered palliative care organization. There, he will engage in educational programs and community outreach to serve the needs of Colorado citizens, especially Denver's marginalized populations. His final project will use digital storytelling to combine the narratives of patients and providers, hoping to augment satisfaction and prevent burnout. He is grateful to Dr. Lisa Keränen for her mentorship and Life Quality Institute for their ambition and support.

Shelby Anne Nichols is majoring in Communication and Spanish. She chose her majors because a Communication degree works with many different career paths and she feels passionate about Spanish and languages in general. She plans tofocus onadvertising and marketing that promote social justice andshehopes to work at an advertising agency when she graduates. This summer, she is an intern at Worldwide Partners, a network of advertising agencies that connect people around theglobe. Her projects include improving the company’s social media platforms inorder to reach more people, and interviewing CEO’s from various advertising agencies to produce press releases at the end of the summer. She recently had an amazing opportunity to job shadow at Cohn Marketing in Denver. The experience helped her solidify her desire to land a position at an advertising agency someday.

2013 Puksta Scholars

 Amira Aletebi worked as an intern for the Muanjadi Organization, a non-profit dedicated to educating young women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Through education of these young women, the Muanjadi Organization will empower these girls to continue on their education thus enabling them to avoid unwanted, early, pre-arranged marriages. Her life/career goal is to work as a social justice advocate, doing gender empowerment work both locally and globally. She plans to earn a PhD in Communication and eventually work in the Political, Peace, and Security sector of the United Nations. She hopes to aid in bringing knowledge of differences to those that seek to understand and appreciate them. Ultimately, she wants to give voice to the voiceless, and advocate for equality and productive opportunity.  

Mouath Baesho has a passion for social justice that derives from his hopes and aspirations of the people for a new Middle East. He is a champion of democracy and human rights. He is committed to improving international relations between Middle Eastern countries and the rest of the world, by improving policies, promoting business relationships, and fostering cross-national partnerships that benefit both parties. Mouath founded the CU Denver Amnesty International Chapter. The chapter is growing rapidly, with about 90 members enrolled today. He will continue to feed his passion for social justice and civic engagement through his internship at the Center of Middle East Studies at the University of Denver.

Misty Saribal feels that the time is ripe for a global consciousness and revolution to end systems which create the continual need for fixes for the symptoms rather than the causes of poverty, racism and gender discrimination, and that is how she hopes to spend her life’s work. She feels that social justice academia must be accompanied by some form of social justice activism. Therefore, she employs the use of theatre activism styled after Theatre of the Oppressed. She believes that social justice work should be infused with creativity, fun, happiness, and inclusivity. Theatre is an incredible way to bring people together to break free of daily stigmas; resulting in new and innovative solutions, relationships and skills.

Benji Swales became a Puksta Scholar to learn more about the functionality of websites. Specifically, how they work, and how people interact with them. His main focus was to use a website as a platform for these discoveries. In addition, he assisted the Puksta Foundation with updating their website. He says that being a Puksta scholar has helped him realize the immensity of the internet and the hard work it requires to make a website accessible, meaningful, and useful.