Scholar Profiles

Boettcher Foundation Press Release

14 Dec Alumni Board Scholar Profile: Q&A with 2014 scholar Brandon Kahlil Thomas

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Angelique Diaz. Name: Brandon Kahlil Thomas Scholar Year: 2014 Hometown: Aurora College(s), Degree(s) and Graduation Year(s): University of Colorado-Boulder, Linguistics (B.A./M.A.), December 2018 What are you currently interested in pursuing after graduating? The fun thing about being a linguist is that there are very diverse opportunities available. My current plan is to teach English in Korea before coming back to the metro area and doing the same work for Colorado adults who don’t speak English. I’m also interested in doing work with local governments attempting to communicate with and hear the needs of immigrant populations. Colorado is a hotspot for immigration, and language barriers have left thousands of people without a voice. I want to help build a society where every voice can be heard, in whatever language it has access to. Tell us about what activities, groups and/or organizations you have joined in college and why you joined them. At CU, I work often with the Black Student Alliance (BSA), Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPoC) and UMAS y MEChA (a Chicano-run Latinx student group). Identity is at the crux of what I study because I think that identity is at the center of how we learn about ourselves and others. I work with these groups on campus because they build people who look and think like me to be advocates and activists, and build communities together. Connecting with other Black, Latinx and Queer people is key to my emotional health, and the communities I’ve built from these groups encourage me to blossom and be better. Tell us about an important mentor you have had. To this day, my most trusted mentor is an old high school teacher, David Gates. Mr. Gates is one of those rare men who can find beauty in anyone, significance in anything and comedy in any place. And he is brilliant! I spent many weeks just watching the way he interacted with people around us, in the classroom and outside of it, and he inspired me to be to empathetic and caring person I’m growing to be: he truly is the embodiment of caring and understanding. I hope to visit him and his wife soon in Japan. What's the best advice you've ever received? Someone once told me, “At the end of the day, the best way to measure success is looking in a mirror.” I don’t remember who said it to me, but it encouraged me to begin a ritual of looking in the mirror every morning and thinking about who I saw there, and how I felt about him. Especially in recent years, that’s something that I’ve had to do at several points to gauge my own success and make sure I am a person I enjoy being. If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why? My mother named me after the Lebanese poet and philosopher Kahlil Gibran, and I feel like in many ways, that makes him a part of me. I’ve read most of his works, but I think it’d be pleasant to sit down with him, face to face, and share a nice meal....
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Boettcher Foundation Press Release

12 Dec Boettcher Scholar returns home to improve her community in the San Luis Valley

Andréa Benton Mestas, a 1989 Boettcher Scholar, has given back to her home community of Alamosa for more than two decades in various roles at Adams State University. Currently the Title V activities director, Andréa focuses on Hispanic student success by using her own story of overcoming challenges as a Hispanic scholar. Andréa was a first-generation college student who grew up in a very low-income area. In fact, the two counties where she has spent the majority of her life are among the two poorest in Colorado. The full-ride to any Colorado university was appealing, but it was more than just the financial incentive that motivated Andréa to apply for the Boettcher Scholarship. “I remember looking over the application and how it mentioned looking for students who were giving back to the community, or ‘paying it forward,’” recalls Andréa. “I liked that the Boettcher Foundation really wanted to encourage young people to help grow Colorado.” Receiving the Boettcher Scholarship expanded opportunities for Andréa and allowed her to attend the University of Northern Colorado—an opportunity she would not otherwise have had. Beyond that, it allowed her to be a “part of something bigger.” “I honestly feel a swell of pride when I walk into the history museum and see a Boettcher Foundation plaque, or meet another scholar,” she said. Andréa was motivated to move forward and graduated magna cum laude with a degree in mathematics, despite numerous challenges, including having her son during her junior year of college. She soon returned to the San Luis Valley, where she was hired in the computing services department at Adams State University. Happy to have returned home, to be giving back to her community and to be close to her family, Andréa continued moving up at Adams State. She was soon hired as the Institutional Research Director, and was encouraged by the provost to enroll in the higher education administration and leadership master’s degree program. Andréa graduated with her master’s in 2012, again at the top of her class with a 4.0. “I loved that I was modeling how great it is to continue your education for my daughter,” Andréa said. “I started my master’s as she was finishing her senior year in high school.” Andréa realized that she loved teaching and developing curriculum, and she also loved serving Hispanic students, which led her to her current role in equity work and working with Adams State’s Title V grant. After attending a cultural workshop at the Hilos Institute, which teaches leadership skills to Hispanic communities, Andréa and some of her colleagues decided to pool their resources and bring that same type of curriculum to their students. Together they developed the curriculum and received grant funding to start teaching students. The course was incredibly successful, but soon the grant funding had run out. Around that time, Andréa happened to be at a Boettcher Foundation event where she connected with Kenzo Kawanabe, a 1990 Boettcher Scholar, a Boettcher Foundation Trustee and a fellow Alamosa native. Interested in giving back to his home community too, Kenzo provided the matching funds, which enabled Adams State to secure a National Heritage Area Grant and allowed the course to continue. Not only is this impacting students on a daily basis, but it has raised awareness statewide about the cultural richness in the valley. “I have a passion for education and for being able to help people out through a career in public service,” Andréa explained.      ...
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Boettcher Foundation Press Release

05 Dec Boettcher Scholar smiles his way through dental school

Matt Iritani has always wanted to be a dentist. In fact, before he could sign his own name, Matt used crayons to draw a picture of himself as a dentist—a picture that he has kept all these years as a reminder of his lifelong goal. A 2011 Boettcher Scholar, Matt attended Cherry Creek High School, just blocks from his parents’ dental practice. “People often don’t like going to the dentist, but they loved my parents,” recalls Matt. His parents valued being involved in the community where they practiced and getting to know their patients beyond the dentist’s chair. “Still, my parents go to patients’ swim meets, softball games, my mom even has patients fly in from Alaska to see her,” said Matt. “I like the idea of developing relationships with my own patients and being able to volunteer and be involved in the community the way my parents have.” Currently, Matt is in dental school at the University of Colorado Denver, where his dad teaches in the program. “One of the coolest aspects of dental school is actually getting to talk with my parents about the profession,” Matt said. Being able to talk to his dad, share techniques and talk about advances in dentistry is one of Matt’s favorite parts of his chosen path. With each semester of dental school that passes, despite challenging classes, he is reassured that this is the right profession for him. “I get this feeling that this is where I am supposed to be and this is what I am supposed to do,” said Matt. “It is a little surreal, kind of like a Hollywood movie.” After Matt earns his dental degree, he plans to continue his studies in an orthodontics residency, and to eventually open his own practice in Colorado, likely close to where he grew up. But in the meantime, when he is not mounting stone models of mouths, Matt volunteers at a student-run medical clinic in Aurora, as well as Children’s Hospital. He’s also active in the Japanese-American community, and on the UCD campus, where he values giving back. “I am an upperclassman, and it's now my turn to pass on some of what I've learned,” Matt said. “The Boettcher Foundation obviously provides us with a lot of opportunities [as scholars], and I am finally beginning to feel like I am in the position to pay it forward.” Matt makes sure to share both his time as a volunteer, as well as his ever-positive attitude. Perhaps that’s why his friends, fellow classmates and even his professors have nicknamed him “Smiley.” Even during the most difficult weeks of school, Matt never loses his smile, and aims to help brighten other people’s day. “You might have a really tough day, the procedure is not working out the way you want it to or a professor might be chewing you out, but don't get down on yourself,” Matt likes to remind his friends. “We all have those days.”  ...
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Boettcher Foundation Press Release

15 Nov Alumni Board Scholar Profile: Q&A with 2015 scholar Veronica Fernandez-Diaz

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Angelique Diaz. Name: Veronica Fernandez-Diaz Scholar Year: 2015 Hometown: Originally from Mexico, spent most time in Thornton College(s), Degree(s) and Graduation Year(s): Colorado College; Pursuing Bachelor’s Degree, 2019 What are you currently interested in pursuing after graduating? I am definitely not sure. I have thought of pursuing law school after college. I know that I want to pursue some kind of role in which I can fight for social justice, but I don’t know in what way I will do so. I am still exploring! Tell us about what activities, groups and/or organizations you have joined in college and why you joined them. Currently, I am a mentor for the Bridge Scholars Program and Questbridge chapter at Colorado College. I mentor upcoming freshmen from different backgrounds throughout their transition to college. I became a mentor because there is no way that I would be where I am now without the people who have challenged me and encouraged me along the way. As a mentor, I want to ensure that upcoming students understand that their presence matters and empower them to pursue their vision of success. I am also part of the Honor Council, which upholds academic integrity on campus. Since last year, I have been a part of the Inclusion and Diversity Committee which ensures that the processes within the honor council and those surrounding the honor code create a system that is fair to all students. I joined the Honor Council in the first place because JROTC definitely instilled in me the importance of integrity. I slowly learned the unjust processes that existed and joined the Diversity and Inclusion Committee to address these issues. I am also a part of Humans of Colorado College, based on Humans of New York, in which I get to listen to the narratives of individuals at CC and then share that with our community. I joined this project because, for me, true connections are those in which you truly get to know people and their story. I know that everyone has something different to share and I find it meaningful and beautiful to listen to the unique narratives of every individual. Tell us about an important mentor you have had. My high school counselor is one the most important mentors in my life. My high school years bring me many fond memories, but they were also the toughest years of my life and my counselor was always there for me when I need her. I trusted her with everything and she would listen patiently. She offered me opportunities and continues advocating for students like me. Mrs. GT helped me understand my limits, understand my worth and pushed to become a better person. What's the best advice you've ever received? The best advice I have ever received is to hold on to the vision that I have for myself. This is honestly advice that I received just a couple days ago, but one that I realized has kept me going through the hurdles that I have experienced. I have this vision for myself, that is blurry and mostly unclear, but one in which I am part in creating change. This is a vision that is hard to hold onto and hard to keep believing knowing all the obstacles on the way, but if I keep that vision in mind I know that I am, in a sense, empowering myself to always chose the path of resiliency. If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why? Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez come to mind because of the impact that they had on worker rights. After going to Texas and learning a bit about the history of farm workers and the oppression they faced, I would really love to get a sense of the passion that continues to drive Huerta and that drove Chavez to mobilize people in demanding the rights they deserve. I find their dynamic particularly interesting and would want to understand it through each of their points of view....
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Boettcher Foundation Press Release

15 Nov Alumni Board Scholar Profile: Q&A with 1974 scholar Ron Wiley

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Angelique Diaz. Name: Ronald (Ron) B. Wiley Scholar Year: 1974 Hometown: Boone College(s), Degree(s) and Graduation Year(s): Colorado State University - B.S. Bio-Agricultural Science, 1977; Colorado State University- M.S. Plant Genetics & Breeding, 1979; Azusa Pacific University - M.A. Organizational Leadership, 2008; Nova Southeastern University - Ph.D. (ABD) Conflict Analysis & Resolution, 2017 (anticipated). Tell us about your current work and how long you’ve been doing it. What is your favorite aspect of your current occupation? I currently work as Director of Field Personnel with Resource Exchange International, Inc., a small humanitarian development agency based in Colorado Springs. REI, Inc. places professionals alongside their counterparts in emerging nations -- hospitals, universities, business settings, development projects -- where they invest both in learning from and sharing with their colleagues, equipping them so that they can lead out in developing their nations. In Djibouti, our team has launched the first English-medium K-12 international school. In Vietnam, our staff are helping implement the “2020” program of introducing English as a foreign language into every classroom in the country. In Laos, our team launched the first surgical residency program. In Indonesia, poverty alleviation takes the form of a mango processing and drying project in collaboration with a grower cooperative, adding value, jobs and environmental and social sustainability. I’ve been with REI, Inc. for 22 years, including 16 years in Kazakhstan, and the last six in my current role. The favorite aspect of my current occupation is traveling to meet with our field staff in six countries, and encouraging them in the excellent work that they do. What role has being a Boettcher Scholar played into where you are and what you are doing now? Being a Boettcher Scholar kept me in Colorado for my B.S. and M.S., and I met my wife while at CSU. My college years were transformational for me, and my entire career has been spent serving in the nonprofit sector as a result. My early engagement in opportunities for crossing cultures led to our long tenure living in and contributing to the development of Kazakhstan as an emerging nation. We’re back in Colorado involved in elder care, and it has given us the opportunity to give back to our home community in Southern Colorado, while continuing our traveling contribution internationally. Tell us about your involvement in activities, organizations or groups outside of work. Besides involvement in a local church congregation, I moonlight as a restorative practices facilitator/trainer/consultant for Pueblo area schools, the justice system, and occasionally our local university. This has grown out of my doctoral studies into indigenous restorative conflict resolution practices. Besides my vocation, my avocation, and my studies, I enjoy hiking in the mountains in whatever part of the world I happen to be at the moment. What’s the best advice you’ve received and what advice do you have for current graduates entering your career field? The best advice that I’ve received are the words of Jesus: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” I consider my work and the work of our non-profit to be peacemaking work. As advice for anyone considering entering the field of peacemaking, I would offer this short poem, written by Edwin Markham, called “Outwitted”: "He drew a circle that shut me out Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout But love and I had the wit to win; We drew a circle that took him in." If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why? I would choose to have dinner with Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi, Badsha Khan, and Martin Luther King, Jr. I would want to join them in dialogue on the spirituality of nonviolent social change, religion and peacemaking, since each of them serve as inspiration for me in my life and work....
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Boettcher Foundation Press Release

31 Oct Boettcher Scholar juggles multiple roles as public servant

Professor, school board member, entrepreneur and puppy trainer. Any of these roles could be a full-time gig for most people, but in true Boettcher Scholar style, JulieMarie Shepherd Macklin finds a way to juggle all of these and more. A 2004 Boettcher Scholar from Hinkley High School in Aurora, JulieMarie was recently hired as an instructor in the Presidents Leadership Class at the University of Colorado. The new role marks another step in a career path that has centered around community engagement and leadership. JulieMarie studied political science at CU, where she also participated in the Presidents Leadership Class. Her plan was to go to law school, but an internship at the Colorado State Capitol sparked a passion for politics while also leading to a paid staff position for two legislative sessions. She ultimately pursued both a master’s degree and Ph.D., focusing her research on American politics at the state and local level. In addition to writing her doctoral dissertation on school boards in Colorado, JulieMarie campaigned for and was elected to the board of Aurora Public Schools in 2009. She continues to serve in that role, which she describes as both incredibly demanding and extremely rewarding. “It’s been a hard time to be in the education space,” she acknowledged, noting that budget cuts have meant that much of her time is spent trying to determine how to balance dwindling budgets with minimal impact on students.” The rewards, however, show up when JulieMarie attends high school graduations, helping to present diplomas to eager graduates. “Getting to shake their hands as they walk across the stage, that is one of the most important and most impactful things I get to do,” she said. “That’s where you get to see that decision-making, and all of the structures and policies we put in place come together.” During her tenure on the school board, JulieMarie served board as president for three years. She currently serves as president of the Colorado Association of School Boards. She has managed to do all this while also holding a full-time job. She spent three years as a researcher for the Spark Policy Institute before joining the staff at the Colorado Department of Education. She left the Department of Education to take on her new role at CU. JulieMarie is eager to share her passion for public service, and she recently participated in a panel for members of the Boettcher Scholar community who were interested in pursuing public service. When asked to offer advice for people interested in public service, she noted that there are numerous opportunities to be involved and serve your community. “People equate (public service) with elected office but there are so many meaningful ways to serve that aren’t elected,” she said. “Look for different boards and commissions. Most communities are in need of committed and informed citizens to serve in these roles.” She also advises not getting discouraged if you run for a position and aren’t elected, as was her own experience when she ran for the Colorado State Legislature two years ago. In addition to her busy schedule as a college professor and school board member, JulieMarie also operates a small business selling custom-decorated sugar cookies. The business, Frosted Jules LLC, is an outgrowth of one of her favorite hobbies. While she typically only handles two to three orders per month, each order usually takes upwards of four days from start to finish. JulieMarie also raises guide dog puppies. She and her husband, Michael Macklin, also have two of their own dogs, who she refers to as “career-changers” because they weren’t good fits as guide dogs. Raising guide dogs has been a constant since JulieMarie was a student, and she distinctly remembers bringing one of her earliest trainees to her Boettcher Scholarship interview, which she considers a major turning point in her life. “Boettcher made me who I am today,” she said. “Receiving the Boettcher Scholarship was such an amazing gift and honor. Not having to think about finances allowed me to focus and take advantage of college experience, be involved in clubs, travel, take extra classes – it opened up opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise had.”      ...
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Boettcher Foundation Press Release

18 Oct Alumni Board Scholar Profile: Q&A with 2014 scholar Reilly Quist

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Gergana Kostadinova. Name: Reilly Quist Scholar Year: 2014 Hometown:Delta College(s), Degree(s) and Graduation Year(s): University of Colorado Denver, Major-Biology, Minor-Ethics, 2018 What are you currently interested in pursuing after graduating? After graduation, I plan to go to medical school and hope to become a pediatrician in a rural community. I grew up in a small town and would love to go back to that area to serve my community. I would love to attend the Anschutz Medical Campus here in Denver, but I am also considering Michigan Medical School, Perelman School of Medicine and Baylor College of Medicine. My dream as of right now is to be a primary care physician because they create such close bonds with their patients, and can be extremely influential in the children’s lives. Tell us about what activities, groups and/or organizations you have joined in college and why you joined them. The most amazing organization I have joined during my college career has been Roundup River Ranch (RRR). This is a camp for children with life-threatening and serious illnesses. I love camp because it really changes the campers’ lives. It is a place where they make their very first real friends. It is a place where they don’t feel any different or less than others. They can accomplish anything they want to at camp, no matter what their medical limitations are. I will continue working at RRR even beyond my college career when I become a doctor. Tell us about an important mentor you have had. One of the most important mentors I have met since coming to UCD is Dr. Charles Ferguson. I came from a small school where I usually only had one other person in my classes. During my first few months of college, I failed much more than I succeeded. I didn’t know what to do to fix that. Dr. Ferguson was always there for me, telling me that he believed in me and that I was here for a reason. Without his support, I probably wouldn’t have made it through my freshman year. What's the best advice you've ever received? The best advice I have received was actually from another student. His advice was to “fail forward."  He told me that in college we will all inevitably fail sooner rather than later. However, what we do after failing is what will define us and determine how far we will go. Failing forward means that each failure needs to encourage you to be better. You need to acknowledge what went wrong, make a plan for how to avoid those problems a second time, and then stop dwelling on that failure and instead look forward to the successes you will have. If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why? If I could have dinner with a few people from history, I would choose doctors who worked on unethical medical studies. Although this may sound like a strange answer, I think I would gain beneficial insight from them. As a future physician, I believe that it is our job to ensure that such unethical practices never happen again. The best way to ensure that is to learn exactly how a doctor just like any of us got to that mindset where they could do those sorts of things to other people. By understanding their journey, we can avoid it ourselves....
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Boettcher Foundation Press Release

18 Oct Boettcher Scholars learn “unreasonable” lessons in entrepreneurship

By Carlos Solorzano 2004 Boettcher Scholar “The reasonable man [& woman] adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in adapting the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man [& woman]” This is a powerful quote from George Bernard Shaw, and the way of life for the Unreasonable Institute. Now what is the Unreasonable Institute, you might be asking? They are a local, Boulder-based nonprofit whose mission is to support and leverage entrepreneurs as they solve the world’s greatest problems. Since 2009, more than 16 million lives have been impacted by Unreasonable, in areas such as environmental safety, malnutrition, education and poverty. Recently, Boettcher Scholars were fortunate enough to have Unreasonable’s head of global expansion, Banks Benitez, teach us about the secrets of the most successful entrepreneurs. The greatest part about listening to Banks was learning that anyone could be an entrepreneur – it just means being willing to rethink the way you do things, and being okay with being “unreasonable.” As we progress through school, we are often taught that there is only one “right” answer. And if you spend enough time thinking through the problem, you will get to that single right answer. Let’s be real though, life (and its biggest problems) is never cut-and-dry. There are far too many variables and exceptions to have only one answer. Successful entrepreneurs understand that multiple answers exist, and more importantly, they recognize that their initial answer will likely be wrong. This is not some kind of self-deprecating attitude that entrepreneurs share, but rather a wisdom to understand the importance of feedback. Our first answer is based on our limited understanding of the problem, and this answer is made in isolation from the rest of the world. Feedback helps us understand our oversights and gaps, as well as our strengths. With each round of feedback our answer improves and becomes more complete. This is where the unreasonable man or woman has a leg up. We are trained to be thinkers first - to front-end our time buried in books or in our heads, until we decide on the “right” answer and finally take action. But entrepreneurs can concurrently take action while thinking, and they are not afraid to fail a few times until they get to their answer. Boettcher Scholars learned about one of the entrepreneur’s most powerful tools for getting feedback: rapid prototyping. Entrepreneurs rarely have enough time, resources, or money on hand (sounds a lot like a college student right?), but they must create a product regardless. So they go through fast and successive trials, tinkering and fine-tuning their product after each round. The first few prototypes might be failures, but they quickly learn why, and they do so with relatively little cost of time and money. Take Zappos for example – they are a highly successful retailer today, but when they started they didn’t know whether an online shoe store would be feasible, so they didn’t purchase any of their own inventory. But how do you start a shoe business without any shoes? When a customer ordered the shoes on their website, they went to the shoe store down the road, bought those shoes, packaged them up, and then delivered them to the customer. After a while, they realized that people would actually buy shoes online before trying them…and the rest is history. Rapid prototyping helped them cheaply and quickly test the feasibility of their business first without the need for heavy investment. Thinking through all the details would not have been nearly as fast or effective as the approach Zappos took. Our Boettcher Scholars practiced these same approaches during the recent weekend workshop, looking to tackle the problems of food waste, career exploration and debt reduction. The scholars went to the streets, called up friends and leveraged each other to get feedback on their initial solutions, and had successfully made multiple revisions to their approach. In a half-day, they created mock “phone apps” using construction paper, tested their business strategies with prospective clients and spoke with actual businesses to see if their analytical tool would meet their clients’ needs. They were amazed by how quickly they went from nothing earlier that day to testable products a few short hours later. If we give them a few months, who knows what they could accomplish! Whether or not this group goes on to become entrepreneurs in the future, they walked away with some great new entrepreneurial techniques to apply in their everyday lives. These lessons - like the willingness to fail and to take action while still having unanswered questions – could go far with the entire Boettcher community. A community who has impressive skill and aptitude that can change the world, but because of that same skill and aptitude, has also been conditioned to believe they need to excel in everything they do and always have the “right” answer. That pressure to succeed is a double-edged sword that can create artificial barriers to making large-scale and highly impactful change. Don’t let that hold you back though. Harness your inner-entrepreneur and remember that we will likely be wrong the first time around; but by going out there and trying anyway, we can learn a great deal more than we ever could by waiting until that elusive “right” answer appears. A great big thanks goes out to Banks Benitez, and to the Unreasonable Institute, for their time and genius this past weekend. Keep up the amazing work! For more information about the Unreasonable Institute, check out their website at https://unreasonableinstitute.org/....
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Boettcher Foundation Press Release

18 Oct Alumni Board Scholar Profile: Q&A with 1979 scholar Norma Mozeé

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Gergana Kostadinova. Name: Norma Mozeé Scholar Year: 1979 Hometown: Denver College(s), Degree(s) and Graduation Year(s): Colorado School of Mines, B.S. Mineral Engineering Mathematics, Minor in Geophysics – 1983 University Colorado Denver, Masters of Global Energy Management (GEM) – 2010 Grand Canyon University, M.A. Educational Administration, 2010 Tell us about your current work and how long you’ve been doing it. What is your favorite aspect of your current occupation? I started my international business advisory consultancy, Afinidad Americas, two and a half years ago. "Afinidad" means "affinity" in Spanish. The vision and name came from a lifetime of personal and business experience. My passion is creating affinity between the U.S. and Latin America. Being born in Denver to an African American father and a Mexican mother, I sense I was born to this mission to bridge cultures through business, which results in deepening relationships and understanding on both sides of the border. What role has being a Boettcher Scholar played into where you are and what you are doing now? I am eternally grateful to the Boettcher Foundation for my scholarship. I have to share a deeply personal story: my father died on the second day of my second year in college. Without my Boettcher Scholarship, I would not have been able to continue and complete college. It still brings tears to my eyes to realize that the scholarship allowed me to complete school after my father’s death. I was able to concentrate fully on getting the best education. It also positioned me to contribute back to Denver and Colorado, and now the world. You know it’s prestigious when every time I mention that I was a Boettcher Scholar you hear the audible “Oohs" and "Ahhs.” Tell us about your involvement in activities, organizations or groups outside of work. The list is long, but the running themes of my outside interests are the cross-section of creating global understanding and education. I’m on the board of WorldDenver, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting Denver and the world through the international delegations it brings to Denver and its speaker series. I’m also on the board of Colorado School of Mines Alumni Association. I recently started up the Women at Mines interest group. We’re dedicated to fostering opportunities for women interested in attending Mines and entering STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers.   What’s the best advice you’ve received and what advice do you have for current graduates entering your career field? The mind has the power to ignite or snuff out your dreams. Manage your mindset, and you’ll manage your outcomes. It all starts with getting in touch with your authentic self and drowning out the background noise of what others think you should do versus what you believe in and are passionate about. Follow your passion and personal fulfillment will follow. If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Obamas and Mother Theresa. They all beat the odds and broke through the tide of resistance. Their resilience, dignity, grace and resolve to unify humanity and make the world better for those that don’t have a voice or are invisible is the example I’d like to leave as a legacy. I find it important to stay anchored during this divisive political climate by remembering Dr. King’s words: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”...
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Boettcher Foundation Press Release

13 Sep Alumni Board Scholar Profile: Q&A with 2014 scholar Elise Collins

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Gergana Kostadinova. Name: Elise Collins Scholar Year: 2014 Hometown: Highlands Ranch College(s), Degree(s) and Graduation Year(s): University of Colorado Boulder, BFA Performance Major and Leadership Minor, and (hopefully) graduating in 2018 What are you currently interested in pursuing after graduating? After college, I would like to perform theatre professionally and utilize theatre to create social change. I would like to start a theatre group that tells the stories of underrepresented groups and utilizes interactive methods to discuss social justice topics through performance. I hope to hold the mirror up to nature and provide audiences with the opportunity to rehearse how they would deal with various subjects in real life. Tell us about what activities, groups and/or organizations you have joined in college and why you joined them. In college I have been part of the Interactive Theatre Project, the Presidents Leadership Class, CU OnStage, salsa, blues and swing. The Interactive Theatre Project is a group that utilizes techniques from Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed to start dialogues about complex social issues and create positive social change. I joined this organization because I am passionate about social justice and theatre. The President’s Leadership Class has been a wonderful opportunity to study leadership, both in the classroom and in the real world. I have been president and secretary for CU OnStage, an organization that creates performance opportunities for students by organizing the annual CU Fringe Festival, a weekend full of free student performance art. I wanted to give students an opportunity to pursue their passion in an environment where it was safe to take risks and fail. I enjoy dancing salsa, blues and swing because it gives me a chance to listen to good music, move freely and spend time with friends. Tell us about an important mentor you have had. Angela Thieman Dino, my professor for multi-level issues in leadership, greatly influenced the way that I lead and approach new challenges. She helped me learn how to approach challenges from a mindset of abundance rather than a mindset of scarcity. Her guidance has taught me how to research, given me the tools to become an expert on any subject within a month and showed me how to view every concept through a variety of lenses – an individual lens, an interpersonal lens and an institutional lens. She has given me confidence, perspective and the courage to create positive social change. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? I received the best advice in the form of a phrase from a director’s pre-show ritual. Before every show, the entire cast would recite the following phrase “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” This quote always gives me perspective and strength in times of stress. It has shaped the way that I view the world and overcome obstacles in my life. If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why? I would like to have dinner with William Shakespeare, Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosalind Franklin. I would ask Shakespeare about his writing process and the details about his life, ask Gandhi about his leadership style and finding a worthwhile cause to pursue, ask Eleanor Roosevelt for social activism advice and ask Rosalind Franklin about how she maintained such an incredible work ethic and overcame adversity within the male-dominated scientific community....
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