By Keylen Villagrana
Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU) has secured three years of funding to pilot paid short-term fellowships for TheDream.US scholars through a national nonprofit focused on the academic success of those students.
Six students are already participating in TheDream.US Experiential Fellowship Program at MSU Denver, which started in the fall semester. The University is the only institution of higher education in Colorado to receive three-year funding for the fellowship program. The fellowships are project-based and tailored to a student’s academic and research interests, as well as skill development for their desired career paths.
MSU Denver has previously offered internships for college credit to undocumented students, but the lack of compensation adds to the challenges faced by students who are juggling school and jobs.
“This really opens up opportunities for students, independent of challenges or barriers they might face to accessing meaningful professional-development or academic-development opportunities,” said Gregor Mieder, director of Immigrant Services at MSU Denver.
Italu Ramos Hernández, a junior majoring in Art and minoring in Industrial Design, is the fellow for MSU Denver’s Center for Visual Art. She is researching and summarizing literature about best practices for museum outreach and engagement, providing recommendations and helping to implement them into the gallery space.
“It’s been very valuable to learn about engagement methods used by different art galleries across the country and develop my research skills, which is not often the case for art majors,” said Ramos Hernandez. “Being able to connect with the community will help my career in ways I didn’t have access to before.”
Working with CVA Education Manager Katie Taft, who submitted the project application, Ramos Hernández has already provided many recommendations, including ways to engage visitors at different levels through gallery guides and improved tour structures.
The fellowships allow students to contribute to research initiatives and gain hands-on experience. At MSU Denver, faculty and staff members can submit their projects for consideration. Once selected, eligible TheDream.US scholars can apply to the list of approved fellowships.
Providing funding for undocumented students has always been a challenge at MSU Denver, said Alyssa Marks, director of Faculty Engagement and Experiential Learning at MSU Denver. “This has just been a really unique and awesome space for us — to actually have the ability to provide funding for undocumented students,” she said.
School officials hope the pilot program at MSU Denver will lead to paid fellowships for not only TheDream.US scholars but for all students across campus, including those who are undocumented and not part of the TheDream.US program.
“It’s already hard to find opportunities to gain experience as it is — it’s so competitive,” said Ubaldo Bogarin, a junior who has a fellowship with the Department of Computer Sciences. Working under Assistant Professor Steve Geinitz, Ph.D., Bogarin is helping with a software project to automate part of the grading process in Canvas through peer instruction and assessment.
The Computer Science major has helped implement new functionality and features to Canvas through an intensive coding-and-documentation process. Bogarin has expressed gratitude for the fellowship program and described the many challenges undocumented students face as they look for opportunities to gain experience in their fields.
“I don’t think most people really see the difficulty or have a sense of how much of a miracle it is to line up these experiences so that you can better yourself,” Bogarin said.
Keylen Villagrana is a writer with MSU Denver RED and Media Relations Specialist with Metropolitan State University of Denver.
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