Your support of Humanities is seen and appreciated. Even small donations add up to make a tangible, immediate impact in the lives of our students. Your gifts help students cultivate vital skills that enable them to lead and change the world: the ability to think critically and compassionately, learn new languages, be culturally literate, understand and uncover history, and communicate articulately.
Meet a few of our incredible scholarship recipients.
Middle East Studies, Communication, and Writing & Rhetoric Studies
Daniel Ybarra is quickly becoming an expert on all things humanities. He is triple majoring in three Humanities majors (Communication, Writing & Rhetoric Studies, and Middle East Studies), lives in the Humanities House on campus, and is among the star competitors of the top debate team in the country housed right here at the U, the John R. Park Debate Society. He is also the winner of the College of Humanities’ prestigious Steffensen-Cannon Scholarship for the 2017-18 school year.
Daniel was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and first discovered his love of debate while attending Rio Hondo Community College in LA county. “Forensics challenges me to communicate critical theories, develop techniques in communicating my arguments, and allows me to advocate for diversity – of voices, people, and ideas – within my community,” he explains.
“I chose the University of Utah because of the John R. Park Debate Society. When I first attended the U’s college tournament in 2014, I was both charmed by the campus and enamored with the presence of the competitors from across the nation,” he reflects. “I was certain that I wanted to be involved with this university – it attracted me instantly.”
The Debate Society hosts a number of forensics tournaments that serve Utah high schools and universities, as well as out-of-state institutions. In addition, the team regularly competes against collegiate forensics programs from across the nation, and is in the national spotlight as a top competitor every year. In 2017, they became National Champions for the first time in history. For Daniel, the Debate Society offers an unmatched opportunity to hone his communicative skills, form clear and concise arguments on both sides of issues, and compete with teammates he’ll cherish for a lifetime.
Daniel says he has gained much from immersing himself in so many humanities fields. His triple majors in Communication, Writing and Rhetoric Studies, and Middle East Studies contribute to a worldview and self-confidence he could not have fathomed before stepping foot on campus.
“I believe a background in the Humanities bridges every gap in society. I have sharpened my skills as a leader by learning from excellent models of pedagogy. My professors’ criticisms are well received and without question I know they are critical for my development as a member of a global community,” he explains. “The course work is an interactive experience for me. I have gained a definite respect for all walks of life and I am always seeking out new experiences to diversify my thinking.”
In an effort to expand his worldview, he will travel to Tajikistan for a study abroad program this summer to immerse himself in another language and culture. Funded by a Foreign Language and Area Studies scholarship he received from the College of Humanities, he will learn Farsi and earn eight college credits for this immersive course. “I plan to integrate everything I have learned as a student of the humanities and absorb as much information as I can of the Tajik culture. I will attend mosque and socialize with all the wonderful people. It is an experience of a lifetime and reinforces the fact that studying the humanities is the path to discovery and understanding. I learn how to relate to others. I learn from the experiences of my professors and colleagues. The humanities is overflowing with rich experiences that satisfy my soul.”
Daniel is now applying for the Conflict Resolution Graduate Certificate Program in the College of Humanities, where he says he will learn to better facilitate how to discover shared interests between opposing parties. This fall, he plans to apply to become a Fulbright Scholar and attend the University of Amsterdam to earn a master's degree in Conflict Resolution and Governance. He says he has a dream of facilitating conversations of understanding between Atheists, Christians, and Muslims within the United States that would be centered on culture and community. “I hope to practice the traditions of storytelling to spark better understanding of others’ lifestyles. I want to moderate open discussions to find common links between our differing interests and backgrounds,” he explains. “I believe shared interests of all sorts will be essential tools, uniting ourselves in this country, and creating friendships with people across the world.”
“I am not a theologian by discipline; I am a budding Communication scholar who hopes to practice these methods I’ve learned to create dialogue between groups that will subvert tensions and bring much-needed perspectives to different situations. I want to see people be less afraid of the other, and I believe the College of Humanities has given me the tools to facilitate these types of uniting conversations,” he says.
Mayan Jasim Mallah
Senior, International Studies
Inaugural recipient of the Barbara Tanner Scholarship in Humanities
Nothing can stop Mayan Jasim Mallah, an Iraqi refugee who came to Utah in 1996, from getting an education – not even war. And she proved it in May 2017 when she became the first female Kurdish refugee from her cohort in Salt Lake City to earn a bachelor’s degree. She graduated with a degree in International Studies from the University of Utah’s College of Humanities, which she says is the culmination of all her dreams and goals. Mayan is the first recipient of a Barbara Tanner Scholarship in Humanities at the U, which helped allow her to graduate on time.
“Education is life. It brings you from dark to light; from sickness to health. I’ve had to quit school due to war. I’ve had to escape my school and my city more than once. And I am so grateful to say I have now graduated with a bachelor’s degree,” she reflected with pride.
Mayan, her husband, and her three daughters live and work in Salt Lake City. In addition to her schooling, she has been interning at the English Skills Learning Center and working at Utah Refugee Connection. Two of her daughters attend Salt Lake Community College and are planning to transfer to the U, and her youngest daughter is a junior in high school. Her husband works in catering at a hotel downtown.
Looking into Mayan’s eyes as she speaks about the atrocities she experienced in Iraq and the unforeseen trials of leaving her homeland to never return, it is easy to see that education has given her life, hope, and opportunities she never could have imagined. She came to Salt Lake City in 1996 as a refugee with a one-year-old baby girl, and in May 2017 that same daughter graduated from Salt Lake Community College as her mother graduated from the U.
Mayan knew she wanted to pursue a degree in International Studies from the moment she stepped on campus after transferring from Salt Lake Community College. “I went through the struggles of being an immigrant, and I want to help others to not have to experience some of the pain I had to,” she explains. “Being able to study about different cultures and ethnicities, histories, and cultural problems like racism and economic inequality is so important. If you understand people and their backgrounds, you won’t be afraid of them. You’ll know how to best help them.”
Studying the humanities is vital, she says. “Being a student in the College of Humanities has helped me learn and be able to help others learn that we are all human. We are all born and we all pass away. If you understand people and their cultures, you learn that people aren’t evil. Their situations and their environment create violence, but people are good. In my major, I’ve learned so much about politics, economics, inequality, and how to help people out of their suffering.”
Her dream job falls perfectly in line with her education and her personal experiences: Serving and educating refugees. She would love to teach English to adult students and work with organizations that serve refugees in the US and abroad. Going overseas to work with the UN or a partnering organization would be ideal, she says.
For Mayan, gaining an education from the U has been a dream come true. She truly believes education is the key to freedom. “If we have no knowledge of our history, we’ll relive it,” she exclaims. “We can move forward with education. With education is victory. With education is life.”
Writing & Rhetoric Studies
Writing Studies Scholars Program
Andrea Valverde wouldn’t have considered herself a writer a year ago, but today she believes she is, indeed, a writer, she has a story to share, and that her words are valuable and transformative. “I have come to learn that writing is a vital tool for survival, change, and growth,” she says. “Writing can be my most important tool in life.”
A Los Angeles native, Andrea moved to West Valley City at age 14 and went on to attend Salt Lake Community College with a dream of attending the University of Utah. Her dream became a reality when she met Professor Christie Toth, who encouraged her to join her summer class at SLCC for students preparing to transfer to the U known as Writing 3030: Writing Across Locations. The class, a “bridge course” between SLCC and the U’s Writing and Rhetoric Studies Department, is part of a new program designed by Toth, called the Writing Studies Scholars Program. Toth designed the program, which includes the upper-division summer bridge course, faculty mentorship, tuition scholarships for each student’s transition year at the U, and a cohort experience, based on her research that demonstrates the importance of meaningful support for transfer students from community colleges to four-year universities.
“During the semester I found out that this class was the first of its kind, and saw first-hand how admirable Professor Toth was for her passion for helping transfer students succeed,” Andrea reflects. “In the Writing Studies Scholars program, I received the encouragement and skills I needed to make my transition to the U. The chance to join a cohort that is also transferring and already know other students when you arrive on campus makes the transition a lot easier. Having a great professor that believes in you and checks in on you to see how you are doing makes all the difference in the world. And the scholarship I received was the only way I was able to afford being a full-time student at the U.”
Andrea, who has just finished her first year as a double major in Writing and Rhetoric Studies major and Political Science at the U, was able to take a full course load and participate in the Bennion Service Center’s Travel Service Program in Cuba.
“My studies in the humanities have taught me to rhetorically analyze myself, my surroundings and every aspect of my education,” she reflects. “I have found my voice and learned to critically think about the world around me. Being taught to think beyond the words on a page and to look for the complexities beyond the information being shared has helped me to become a better listener and what I hope to be, a better leader.”
Today, she works in the Salt Lake County Mayor’s Office, where working with a leader she admires has motivated her to get a master’s degree and pursue a path that will allow her to give back to her community.
“My plan is to pursue a career that will allow me to help others, especially students of color, and to let other students like myself know about the programs that have helped me and encourage them to make writing a priority,” she says. “People may silence a voice or ignore a physical presence, but our words will transcend any of those barriers; our writing will remain forever.”
The first Humanities Skiing for Scholarships award winner is Jose Soto, a Communication student and member of the Park Debate Society who immigrated from Venezuela. He received a $2,500 scholarship, a free annual ski pass to Brighton, and a free season of ski lessons for the upcoming year. “Thanks to this scholarship, I can complete my degree. I can also embrace a part of Utah’s culture I have been unable to participate in before. Being able to learn to ski is exciting and gives me the opportunity to finally participate in a cornerstone of Utah’s culture,” Soto said.
Soto, who has personally won a debate tournament and is part of the top debate team in the country, maintains a high GPA and is described by his professors as “thoughtful, self-reflexive, and a natural leader.” He has also distinguished himself as a poet and is preparing for the National Poetry Slam, where he will represent the U on the SLC Slam Poetry Team.