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Puksta Fellows

2016 Fellows

​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 $140,000 in support of tuition for our Puksta Fellows. Read the 2016 Puksta Program Report here​.

Here are this year's outstanding fellows:

Patrycja Humienik's Puksta project goals are centered on the role of the arts in education and conflict transformation, with a focus on the intersection between mass incarceration and human rights. In the coming year, she intends to further her communication activism research by integrating creative methodologies (creative writing, dance, speaking, and art) into her approach to teaching in Denver-area prisons. Through organizing the Denver group of Dances for Solidarity, a national initiative to share dance with incarcerated people in solitary confinement through letter writing, she plans to collaborate with incarcerated pen pals on a small publication and performance event.

Miranda Johnson's project will focus on the overlapping realities of child welfare, poverty, and limited life opportunities. She plans to improve the lives of at-risk youth by helping them build a sense of confidence, well-being, and community. She will study how we can use our communication skills to stand up for justice for oppressed populations.

Her career goals involve opening her own non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of at-risk youth by providing numerous resources for success, thus building a community with supportive relationships.​


Sarah Sunderlin is a current volunteer and co-facilitator of the Democratic Communication Workshop. Her goal is to reformat our current teaching and learning model (which focuses on men and women in prison) to address the needs of the families of incarcerated individuals. Building upon national best practices, she hopes to launch a service-oriented program that would bridge the CU Denver campus, Denver-area prisons, and local prison-impacted communities.



Prior to joining the CU Denver team, Matthew Wilkin served four years of active duty in the United States Navy; he now works hard to assist in planning social events for the CU Denver Veteran Student Organization. Building upon this ongoing commitment, for his Puksta project Matthew will research, analyze, and seek to understand the difficult transitions veterans experience when they leave active duty and return to the civilian world. By studying the impediments to and successes of veterans trying to transition from the military to school, Matthew hopes to create a road-map of best practices for his fellow veteran-students and the teachers and staff with whom they interact, thus facilitating a more open and inclusive environment for veteran-students on our campus.​​​