Jean Robles came to college wanting to help people and pursued genetics with an idea of becoming a doctor. But her experiences in the Bridging Opportunities in Leadership and Diversity (BOLD) and Sky is the Limit learning communities showed her a different way of helping people.
Robles was honored December 5th with the WiSE Undergraduate STEM Leadership Award for her work mentoring students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
"You can change people's lives here," Robles said. "I think college can be very rough on people and it's where a lot of identity growth can happen."
Robles will graduate in May with a degree in genetics, which she found fascinating, but she found her biggest passion in using her own experience to mentor other students interested in STEM. After graduation she plans to pursue a graduate degree in student affairs.
"I think it's where my heart is," Robles said.
During her sophomore year Robles became a peer mentor in BOLD, a learning community for first year and new transfer multicultural students. The following year, Robles watched her own mentee become a peer mentor while she became a team leader, working more in the classroom and planning curriculum.
Robles especially enjoyed working with the students on a final project building a campaign for issues on campus.
"My group had diversity and inclusion," Robles said. "The best part was when they were explaining why this matters — them coming up with their own conclusion that it's important that we have specific events for students of color to come together and feel included and feel like they belong."
Robles was inspired to get involved after realizing the value of the help she received from others in her own college path.
"I really wanted to give back," Robles said. "I realized the power that student affairs has on students and I just felt like I could do anything with their support. I wanted to help other students feel that way, too."
Robles also helped as a peer mentor in Sky is the Limit, a learning community for open-option students interested in STEM fields. The community is currently in its second year at Iowa State. In the first semester, students spend time in the classroom with one of five groups based on STEM careers: Monarch butterfly conservation, health care, addressing climate change, big data or multidisciplinary career paths.
Students who continue into the second semester can pursue a research project on any question they come up with. Robles enjoyed seeing the students complete their research driven by their own interests.
"All students have this great potential and they just don't see it yet," Robles said. "Helping them see that and making them believe that they can do it is my favorite part."
Robles plans to continue working with students through her graduate work where she hopes to look into underrepresented groups in STEM fields.
"I definitely want to thank all my mentors that have helped me," Robles said, giving a special thanks to her family for their support.