CALS Nurtures student diversity

Just like the kaleidoscope of plants found at Reiman Gardens, Elizabeth Martinez-Podolsky hopes to expand and nurture discussions to promote an understanding of the kaleidoscope of diversity on campus.

Touring Reiman Gardens is just one of many stops Martinez-Podolsky organized for students in the Academic Program for Excellence (APEX).

The APEX program is one part of Martinez-Podolsky’s position as the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences multicultural liaison officer. She started in April and is using past student surveys to develop ideas to improve the program and create future initiatives.

The eight-week summer program helps underrepresented freshmen get a feel for campus and the resources available to them before their fall semester. The students take classes, network with peers and participate in both professional and social activities.

“We take multicultural and diversity issues seriously, it’s something we value in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences,” Martinez-Podolsky said. “These students need to feel supported and included, that’s why we are here.”

“At this point I’m trying to increase awareness for students and faculty about the resources we offer,” Martinez-Podolsky said. “I want students and faculty to know that I can talk to students individually or work with faculty or speak to classes to introduce diversity.”

Theresa Cooper, assistant dean for diversity for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said programs like APEX help multicultural students transition to Iowa State University.

"Like many of our programs, this one provides active learning opportunities and professional development experiences. Students meet faculty, staff, peers and industry professionals," Cooper said.

The program features college specific programming that introduces students to academic, professional and social experiences to ensure academic success. Jessica Sanchez, a senior in microbiology, worked with Martinez-Podolsky this summer as an undergraduate program assistant.

“It’s a great opportunity for students to familiarize themselves with campus before the fall semester begins,” Sanchez said. “They also get to see some of the great opportunities Iowa State has to offer and take advantage of those opportunities right away.”

Caitlyn Minnis, a freshman in animal ecology, said the summer introduction has given her a head start in everything from understanding the bus system to forming relationships with peers.

“I can honestly say that my college experience is going to be better,” Minnis said.

Ambar Morales Cuadrado, a freshman in nutritional sciences and global resource systems, said the program offered more than she expected.

"The staff were very excited and genuinely wanted us succeed. They have given so much of their time to show us the resources that are available to us. This experience has been one of a kind and has prepared me to enter the fall 2015 with confidence," Cuadroado said.

Although Martinez-Podolsky doesn’t advise students, she wants students and faculty to know that her door is open. She hopes to increase multicultural awareness through communication.

“I’m hoping to create more spaces for discussion, both physically and socially,” Martin-Podolsky said.