Scholar Category: Gender Issues

Sunjoi Gandhi

Major: Computer Science & Socio-Legal Studies

Project: Partnering with Girls Inc of Metro Denver(GIMD), a non-profit organization focused on girls’ education, to create a three-year advocacy program for high school-aged participants in hopes of helping them find their voice, recognize how much power they hold, and how much they can change the world.

Inspiration: Through the curriculum, GIMD is able to provide, young women, primarily women of color are given the opportunity to learn how to cultivate their voices and begin change-making early on in their social-justice career.

Future Goals: So far, this is a pilot program so we are learning as we go. I hope the program continues for as long as possible and young women have access to this opportunity and curriculum for years to come.

Ari Gibson

Major: Business Administration and Management

Project: Through my Puksta project, I am hoping to help fill the current void surrounding LGBTQ+ education in elementary, middle, and high schools. While other topics regarding diversity are becoming commonplace in classrooms, the important aspects of diversity surrounding those who identify as gender and/or sexuality queer are lacking. I believe that introducing the subject matter to youth in health and sex education classes would enable them to learn about these different areas while helping start a path of self-discovery related to gender and sexuality. Through connecting with educators, providing resources for schools, and giving in-class presentations, I can introduce this content in a friendly, discussion-welcoming demeanor. If one isn’t aware that other genders and sexualities exist, they may find themselves struggling to understand why they’re attracted to certain people and feel certain ways about their gender. The dysphoria that can surround being queer is hard to manage1 2, but our youth need to know they’ll always have support from other LGBTQ+ community members, organizations, and allies, including those who are present in their daily academic lives.

Inspiration: Friends that are part of the LGBTQ+ community have helped me notice the lack of education about their gender expression and sexual orientation. They’ve also helped me see what it can be like to live with daily gender and sexuality dysphoria, making me see the importance for everyone to be able to express themselves, be called their correct name, and use their correct gender pronouns.

Future Plans: I would hope that my project helps youth identify their gender identities and sexual orientations while educating them about all the different forms of gender expression and sexualities that exist. I also want my project to help shift cultural attitudes towards those that identify as gender or sexuality queer.

Erin Roney

Project: To put together a nonprofit that will teach those who have been incarcerated the skills it takes to prepare for a job interview and provide interview attire for them.

Inspiration: After researching what the Puksta Foundation is about, I thought it would be a good fit for me.

Future Plans for Project: Help those who need help the most but giving them skills they can carry with them to have a successful life.

Evan Utzman-Nichols

Project: My Puksta project has focused on learning methods of prevention of sexual assault on college campuses, of course this project has ebbed and flowed within this realm. Currently I am focusing on the next task in my project, due to Covid-19 it has changed a bit, but I am focusing on getting the campus bars to undergo Blue Bench sexual assault prevention training.


Celeste Pegues

Project: Sister to Sister is a student organization that strives to assist minority women at MSU Denver with scholarship, college retention, mind and body wellness and community service. We tailor our workshops and services to the intersectionality that women of color face everyday in their community and personal life. We provide a safe space for self-actualization, self-care, and self-empowerment for women of color on their journey through their college experience.

Inspiration: Seeing the need for a safe space for Women of Color on Auraria campus

Future Plans for Project: A student org that will bring forth fellowship, self-care and activism

Monica Simpson

Project: MSU Denver has a significant number of non-traditionally aged students. Some are returning to school after a few or many years away, and some have never before had the opportunity to attend a university and earn a degree. Older students have distinct needs and challenges, as well as unique wisdom and supports to offer one another. The Wisdom Collective is a student organization that will allow and encourage older students to make meaningful connections with others who understand their journey. Our goal is to build community & connection, support & safety, and resources & resilience.

Inspiration:I found myself back in school after being widowed and raising my children to adulthood. There were numerous compelling and practical reasons I needed and wanted to earn my degree. My story isn’t really terribly unique; there is a substantial number of older students on our campus who’ve faced significant life challenges and are now working to balance academics and other responsibilities while pursuing a new or growing career. There are few if any resources that address our specific situation, and after talking with other non-traditional students I realized that we are in the best position to support ourselves. We have amazing adaptability and strengths! Our stories and experiences are our greatest assets, and I saw the need to create a place where we could share our wisdom, ideas, and encouragement with one another.

Future Plans for Project: My hope is that The Wisdom Collective will be a place of community, support, and resources for non-traditionally aged students. I’d love to see a student organization that not only looks after its own members, but also takes part in campus service projects to address needs of our student body as a whole. We are already working on two significant service projects for our inaugural 2018-2019 year: A Fall food drive for our school food pantry, and a Spring event to encourage and teach self-care to all students. I also envision steadfast and growing support of our members for one another, so that they can see their own true strengths and abilities and move forward into the next chapter of their lives with the knowledge and confidence that they are capable of affecting change in their own communities.

Bailey Cross

Project: My community engagement project is The (Blank) Monologues. Inspired by The Vagina Monologues, The (Blank) Monologues is a student written and performed production about social issues facing students on campus. These issues include by are not limited to sexual assault, domestic violence, racism, sexism, homophobia, and more. The target population served is the CSU community including students and staff, as well as our beneficiary, Crossroads Safe House.

Inspiration: I realized that there were so many issues that college students face, and all too often they are told that they should not discuss their experiences and they are swept under the rug. I firmly believe that we cannot solve these issues unless they are talked about in the open and put front and center.

Future Plans for Project: I hope to provide a platform for survivors to share their stories and let others know that if they have similar experiences, they are not alone. I want to ensure that these issues cannot be ignored.