By Whitney Baxter
Since stepping foot on Iowa State University’s campus as a student in fall 2019, Stefany Naranjo has been making great strides in combatting food insecurity and promoting a more inclusive environment. It was her efforts in the latter that led to her being named the fall 2021 CALS Student Council Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion Award winner.
After a year at Des Moines Area Community College, Naranjo transferred to Iowa State as a global resource systems major, and later picked up her second major in agricultural and life sciences education – communication option.
A prejudiced comment made by someone in one of her first classes inspired her to be intentional about providing different perspectives to students and creating safe spaces in which students can share their experiences.
“From that moment, I wanted to create an environment on campus that was inclusive,” Naranjo said.
She did that, in part, through her involvement in several organizations on campus. She joined MANRRS (Minorities in Ag, Natural Resources & Related Sciences), where she served on the executive board as the public relations officer, and volunteered to be a mentor for Science Bound, a program that teaches Iowa middle and high school students of color about degrees and careers in agriculture, science technology, engineering and mathematics fields. She has also served as a Global Resource Systems Ambassador, sat on the CALS Dean’s Student Advisory Committee and volunteered to serve meals at Food at First in Ames.
No matter what class or group meeting she is in, she is always encouraging her peers to have an open mind and be willing to learn about different cultures and experiences.
“Stefany so often adds to dialogue about how to further agriculture in our global community,” said Virginia Hanson, assistant teaching professor in agricultural education and studies. “Whether she's summarizing a discussion in another class, an article she read, or a snippet from one of her many travels, her contribution always helps those around her know a little more about what's happening and what work there is to do.”
Naranjo’s love of travel spurred her to study abroad in the Netherlands and complete an internship in the U.S. Virgin Islands through the EARTH Program. While on the island of St. John, Naranjo helped establish and grow community gardens to provide food for community members.
“I learned a lot about myself through those experiences and where I want to go next in my career,” Naranjo said.
That next step is looking into joining AmeriCorps or finding a position within urban agriculture, helping community members create community gardens or rooftop gardens to tackle food insecurity. Her ultimate goal is to work for the United Nations.
Wherever her next adventure takes her, Naranjo’s time at Iowa State has equipped her with the knowledge and experience to find success.
“Stefany’s drive and passion have been evident since arriving on campus as a transfer student,” said Ben Chamberlain, academic advisor in agricultural education and studies. “I’ve enjoyed my interactions with Stefany and have been consistently impressed with everything she does. Her work with diversity initiatives, programming and individual conversations have left a lasting impression on our campus. I am confident Stefany will make a big impact on the world.”
She’ll conclude her time at Iowa State by serving as this fall’s CALS Convocation speaker Dec. 17, at 10 a.m. in Hilton Coliseum. In her speech, Naranjo will encourage fellow graduating students to go forth and make an impact in the world:
“As we journey through life, it’s important to remember that we are ‘loyal sons, forever true,’ and we are all bound by our CALS experience. This is not our final destination, but a pitstop on our adventure through life. We will always be Cyclones at heart.”